Maori cultural tourism in Northland should be brought "to the front of the shelf", the chairman of the Te Tai Tokerau Maori Cultural Tourism Association says.
Hone Mihaka says that Northland really does offer the heart of cultural tourism in New Zealand.
"It is different, we're a little bit more rough around the edges here in Northland," Mr Mihaka says. "Others in the business view what we do as being quite a professional approach, but all we're doing is just being Maori.
"We're not looking for the polish and all that sort of stuff, in Northland it is key that we remain just ourselves rather than become the idealised tourism type of Maori encounter or experience."
Mr Mihaka says indigenous people have their ideas about how to portray their cultures to the tourism industry, and it should not, as it might have been in the past, be the other way around.
He see his role as helping to get all the small Maori tourism operators - and those who make up the support services around them - to get out where visitors can view them.
"Maori tourism operators tend to be stacked up behind all the big guys in the front, who are sitting on the front of the shelf . . . and what people tend to do is shop for what they can see."
Mr Mihaka says it is the tourism association's goal to identify all operators in Northland.
It is about recognising that the bigger operators rely on a robust tourism fabric that only the small and medium sized ventures can provide.
He says that the skills of those involved in the tourism association could help to foster ties not just locally, but nationally and internationally.
"It's there, we just need to grow it," he says.
The association needs to develop strategies for developing relationships among its operators at each of those three levels.
The tourism association, with its new board, meets for the first time on November 8 at Kohewhata Marae in Kaikohe at 2pm. Mr Mihaka says all meetings are open to all Maori tourism operators and service providers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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