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Tim Barke (50) has worked in tourism for 30 years, most recently in Queenstown as the general manager of Totally Tourism where he restructured the business and shrank it following the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr Barke said he was approached by the Lake Wanaka Tourism board to take up the six-month appointment following the resignation of James Helmore last month.
Yesterday was his first day on the job.
He said there were some differences between Wanaka and Queenstown but everyone was suffering in regions where tourism was the mainstay of the economy.
"Wanaka probably gets more domestic tourists compared to international visitors than other places like Queenstown, but New Zealand tourism in general has been focused for a long time on marketing internationally.
"It is quite a big change in focus, products and the way you run your business to have to look at different ways to operate and attract people in the domestic market."
He said the domestic market had also changed significantly as there had probably never been as many Kiwis in New Zealand as there were now and more were trying to get back.
"We also have a lot of Kiwis who would otherwise have been travelling internationally, who still want to travel and are now recognising they can travel throughout New Zealand and be doing a good thing helping local businesses."
Mr Barke believed the immediate challenges for Wanaka were to protect the taonga, or treasures, that Wanaka holds dear (such as the landscapes), the community culture, and to help operators survive until tourism started recovering.
He said after meeting staff his next priority was to meet tourist operators to gauge how they were feeling, what they needed and what were their pressure points.
Earlier this year Mr Barke and his wife bought 50ha near Wanaka Airport for a change of lifestyle and scene.
He said the timing of his six-month appointment was "uncanny".