ROTORUA, New Zealand -- Environmental sustainability was a major theme of this year's Tourism Industry Rendezvous New Zealand, better known as Trenz. Held for the second time in Rotorua, the nation's cultural tourism hub, the four-day event, which attracted close to 1,200 buyers and sellers, was promoted as completely carbon-neutral.
"That's a big statement for us as an industry here in New Zealand," said Oscar Nathan, acting chief executive of New Zealand's Tourism Industry Association. "Our environment and natural landscape is the No. 1 proposition that compels people to come to New Zealand, so making the event carbon-neutral is something we're quite proud of."
A portion of the attendance fees for the event was used to offset emissions associated with delegate travel, and recycling and reduction were encouraged throughout. The show's ubiquitous water cups served as a regular reminder. Made entirely of biodegradable materials, all 10,000 were to be composted after the event.
Details of New Zealand's new environmental assurance criteria were also unveiled at Trenz. According to Minister of Tourism Damien O'Connor, "Qualmark Green," an extension of New Zealand's official Qualmark quality-assurance scheme, will be the world's first integrated environmental and tourism quality-assurance system and a highly significant step in the nation's environmentally sustainable tourism efforts.
"The most crucial task ahead of the tourism industry is to deliver on [New Zealand's] '100% Pure' image," O'Connor said. "As it is our environment that underpins our brand, we need to take credible and visible steps to reduce our environmental impact and improve our environmental management."
New Zealand's government approved $840,000 ($547,000 U.S.) to help Qualmark license holders meet new minimum environmental standards that took effect this year. Businesses will be evaluated in five key categories: energy, waste, water, conservation and community. Enviro-Gold, Enviro-Silver or Enviro-Bronze classifications will be given to license holders that exceed minimum requirements.
International travelers who regularly depart from Auckland Airport also got good news: They no longer have to pay a $25 departure fee.
"Airline customers have been telling us for some time that the old departure fee process was a genuine hassle," said Auckland Airport CEO Don Huse. "We are now taking the old collection process link out of the chain and simplifying travel for everyone."
The fee has been replaced by a passenger service charge levied by the airport on airlines, costing carriers $13 for each arriving and departing international traveler.
Trenz 2009 will return to Auckland after a five-year absence and will finish a couple of days before the Australian Tourism Exchange begins on June 13, news well received by many of this year's Trenz attendees. In 2008, the events were separated by nearly two weeks, making attendance at both a challenge for some participants arriving from outside Oceania.
According to New Zealand TIA's Nathan, knowing that ATE 2008 was going to happen in Perth, Australia, gave Trenz organizers an opportunity to try something new.
"We've always thought about New Zealand standing on its own two feet, so this time around we thought, 'Let's have a look at shifting the dates some,'" said Nathan. "I think the exercise was done and the reality, whether or not it's strongly impacted by the current economic climate, is that it makes more sense to bounce both events off each other."
For information on Trenz 2009, visit www.trenz.co.nz.