Foxton, with it's vast black sand beach was my party venue as a Palmerston North teenager. And the super cool thing was that you could drive all the way up the beach to Himatangi.
I have barely thought about Foxton since, but as a tour operator, a new cultural heritage centre has brought the small Horowhenua town back on my radar.
Te Awa Hou Nieuwe Stroom opened to a large multicultural crowd on 18 November 2017.
It houses the national Oranjehof Dutch museum along with the Piriharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre which tells the story of local Maori. The facility appropriately carries Foxton's original name 'Te Awahou', meaning 'the new stream' in its title, and a Dutch translation of the same.
Foxton is a great choice of location for New Zealand's national Dutch museum. For starters, Foxton has boasted a functioning replica 17th century Dutch flour mill in its main street since 2003 and the area has strong Dutch ancestry.
Officials and locals alike are hoping that the 8.5 million dollar Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom will help to breathe life back into a town that has seen busier days. The new venue certainly piqued my interest, and once Foxton got my attention I realised it has much more to offer.
Consequently Welcome Tours' upcoming Dutch-themed trip to Foxton will also include a visit to MAVtech (audio visual museum) housed in Foxton's historic movie theatre. Enthusiastic volunteers are opening the doors to us so that we can take an entertaining trip down memory lane.
The beautiful godwit sculptures at the turnoff to Foxton represent the Manawatu estuary's wonderful natural environment. The bird life is so impressive that the area has been recognised as a wetland of international importance by the United Nations. Ninety five species of bird having been identified there!
I am beginning to picture a second day trip to Foxton that includes a visit to the Manawatu estuary, the Piriharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre and the flax-stripping museum....
Sure, Foxton's not likely to outdo Queenstown for visitor numbers any time soon (and that's a good thing), but I do recommend you check Foxton out next time you are in the vicinity. Or even better join us on Friday 8 December for a fun day of discovery! Details are here.
I enjoyed two very different community events over Labour weekend. The first was the inaugural Paekakariki Pride parade - part of a weekend festival of celebrations for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. It was great fun and an important event. Bravo Paekakariki!
The second was the Indian and South East Asian Diwali festival of light on the waterfront. It was full of dance, beautiful garments, henna tattoos and aromatic Indian foods.
Both events were bursting with vibrancy and a sense of community. It made me think how fortunate Wellingtonians are to have the chance to soak up the rich cultural flavours at events such as these.
I am a self-confessed diversity geek. I can rave on about it for hours! Not surprisingly, diversity is one of Welcome Tours’ core values. For us, this means that we value individuality - we respect and appreciate that our guests bring with them a treasure trove of life experiences and perspectives that add richness to a tour.
Sometimes, through valuing diversity, we adapt our itineraries to the customs or requirements of a particular group. We are always happy to work with a group to deliver a tour in a way that suits them.
'Welcome Tours' aims to be inclusive of all people. Our name is no accident – it is intended to evoke warmth and a sense of belonging – for everyone.
We also seek out diverse activities and perspectives to build into our itineraries. For example, this afternoon I have completed a proposal for an overseas wedding party that includes a waka experience on Wellington harbour – it’s a great way to experience kiwi culture and build friendships at the same time.
Welcome Tours isn’t afraid to step away from the mainstream, in fact we believe it’s where much of the magic happens. Come and join us on an adventure.
As the Director of Welcome Tours, I see myself as being on a journey of discovery along with my Kiwi and international guests. I admit though to some identity confusion. Tourist? Visitor? Local? Who am I when I explore Aotearoa/New Zealand?
Even though Kiwis on holiday here are counted as tourists, most of us are a bit funny about being called a tourist in our homeland. It infers that we don't belong, that we don't understand how things are done around here, that we’re not ‘one of the locals’...
Maybe it depends on perspective. Perhaps in a global village it really doesn't matter.
If I was on the affirmative in a debating team, I could happily argue that being considered a tourist is a good thing. That tourist label gives us a license to see things from a fresh perspective. We don’t have to pretend we know everything. We are seen as inviting new sights and experiences.
So given that we Kiwis definitely don’t want to miss out on all of the things there are to see and discover in this amazing land, how about we create a new local tourist identity? Something that we claim with pride...
Lourist' definitely sounds inappropriate! How about 'toural'? Perhaps not...
There are plenty of buzzwords to describe this sentiment such as 'responsible tourism', 'corporate social responsibility', 'having a social license to operate'...
But words alone won't cut it.
Here are some of the ways that Welcome Tours is walking that talk:
Keeping it local: Welcome Tours prefers to have authentic local experiences and to put our dollars into the local economy.
Protecting the environment:
- We keep paper usage to a minimum (no large glossy brochures for us).
- We optimise fuel efficiency to limit our CO2 emissions.
- We ensure that our tours leave no litter behind.
To the left: Here's our future - a recharging station at Masterton's Queen Elizabeth Park.
Being informed: We facilitate opportunities for guests to learn what the planet needs from humans and we keep learning about responsible ways to run our business.
Fostering social connections: We believe that genuine engagement and sharing experiences is where the magic happens on tour. Living in a high-tech age makes it all the more important to ensure that we take those moments to bond over a cuppa.
Paying attention to pronunciation: Out of respect for people and places we expect to get place names and guest names right.
Come and join us on our adventures to experience first hand how we respect and enjoy our environment and its people.
What would possess me, a seemingly sensible, well-paid public servant to throw in the towel and take to the road with a new business venture?
Founding Welcome Tours means coming full career circle for me. As a teenager I studied at polytech with the aim of becoming a tour operator. A placement with Wellington sightseeing legend Wally Hammond introduced me to a lasting friend and mentor. However in typical kiwi style, I headed overseas in my early 20's for an OE and then to varsity to do further study. From there, I found my way into various public service roles. The jobs were interesting and challenging and I gave my all, but come mid-2016 I was ready for a change. At this point I took time out to have a serious think about how I want to spend the 20-odd working years that I hope to have left ahead of me.
My love of travel has taken me across the globe - relaxing on Pacific islands, partying in Panama, nannying in the French Alps, sightseeing in Shanghai... Each time I venture away from home and have these amazing experiences I am reminded of what a special place New Zealand is. There are so many magical sights and great experiences right here at home - with language we understand, a currency we know, a timezone we're attuned to and great people to boot!
I want to experience more of New Zealand myself. It's time for me to get out from behind a desk and go and meet characters with crazy hobbies, get to know our plants and birds, understand where my food comes from, and have lots of FUN!!
Sue is the Director and Chief Explorer at Welcome Tours. Sue blogs about new discoveries and the things that matter to Welcome Tours.