Wanaka koha climb pleases the punters

Koha climb ... Wildwire Wanaka owner Mark Morrison begins his climb back to the tourism good...
Koha climb ... Wildwire Wanaka owner Mark Morrison begins his climb back to the tourism good times. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A locked-down Wanaka adventure business that normally survives on the dollars of international tourists has turned to koha as it refocuses on the local market.

So, instead of paying $199 or $299 to tackle the world’s highest waterfall climb, Wanaka locals are being offered the same thrill — during the travel restrictions of Level 2 — for whatever donation they can afford.

Wildwire Wanaka owner Mark Morrison said it was a new idea for the tourism industry and 300 people had already emailed the company to express their interest.

‘‘What we are asking for is a minimum of $50 but if you can pay more, that’s great.

‘‘And on the flip side, if you can’t manage $50 let us know and we will see what we can do.

‘‘It is genuine; it is a donation.’’

Mr Morrison said the company was lucky the Covid-19 pandemic had struck at the end of the summer tourist season rather than the beginning.

Like many tourism business owners, though, he and wife Laurel had been left to figure out how to revive the business at the end of the lockdown.

It was hoped the koha climb would turn many locals into advocates for the business.

‘‘If we all go out and have a good time and work together I think we’re going to be a way more resilient community to be able to deal with whatever’s going to be thrown at us.’’

As examples of the response the company had received about the koha system, Mr Morrison provided extracts from emails.

One sender said they had ‘‘always been super pumped to try, and now supporting local is more important than ever and there are no excuses not to’’.

Another described it as a ‘‘brilliant initiative to pump some joy back into the town and ourselves’’.

‘‘Thank you very much for this opportunity. It’s been on our bucket list but cost wise out of our reach as a family,’’ one message said.

‘‘I’m in, or should I say was, in tourism, and local support is the key once things reopen again,’’ another person wrote.

Mr Morrison said some had offered ‘‘way more’’ than the $50 suggested.

‘‘It’s been really, really nice.’’

About 80% of Wildwire’s income had been from international tourists but now the ‘‘whole landscape’’ had changed.

‘‘Because the international market has tended to price out local and domestic markets, everyone’s back to the drawing board ...’’

On Monday, Lake Wanaka Tourism and the Wanaka Chamber of Commerce will begin a ‘‘Love Wanaka, supporting local’’ campaign.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Anna Mickell said Wildwire had done a great job.

‘‘Queenstown and Wanaka know that New Zealanders will be looking for some fun and relaxation after being housebound for months.

‘‘Tourism businesses will not disappoint; there will be some amazing offers available to explore in our district.’’

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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