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‘Regenerative tourism’ focus for new tourism manager

Friday 27 January 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Economy, National

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‘Regenerative tourism’ focus for new tourism manager
New Zealander Brad Kirner is the new destination and development manager for Cook Islands Tourism Corporation. 23012613

Cook Islands Tourism Corporation’s new destination and development manager is looking forward to a new approach to tourism.

Brad Kirner, who assumes the role in February, had already assisted with the corporation’s recent tourism development strategy.

“I’m excited how tourism can help people, and help places. It’s not just about sustainability, and doing no further harm,” Kirner said.

“I was involved in the tourism development strategy. That was a really robust document. It splits the scope of work into several aspirations. We need to empower our industry from a regenerative point of view. We need to make sure the visitor experience is topnotch, but also, they contribute to the economy.

“Regenerative tourism is not a new concept. It’s really starting to gain traction. It’s about holistic wellbeing. A lot of operators would be doing it naturally.

“A specific example would be the turtle tours. Rather than concentrating just on the visitors having a great interaction with the turtles and the wildlife, we need to use those visitors to contribute towards rehabilitation or some form of conservation programmes. It’s all about moving beyond just the economic benefits and looking at the environmental benefits.”

Kirner said he has worked in a variety of different aspects of the tourism industry in New Zealand, including six years as general manager for Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari.

“That’s a good example of regenerative tourism. We were an active marine research vessel which showed visitors the work we were doing in the conservation sphere, and the preservation of the marine environment,” he said.

During the downtime of Covid-19, Kirner worked as a consultant for several different tourism firms.

“If there’s any lesson from Covid-19, it’s that a long-term approach needs to be taken,” Kirner said.

“It’s about the visitor not just coming here for a visit but also doing other things as well. One of the really awesome things we have been working on is the idea of responsible travel. There’s a massive groundswell of potential travellers who want to travel, but also want to make a difference.”

Kirner said he most enjoys the “people aspects” of tourism.

“It’s the people you work with and the people you serve about the tourism industry that really appeals to me,” he said.

“I’ve met some amazing people so far in the Cook Islands. But I’m looking forward to helping in whatever way I can. It’s important to contribute to the community.”