No power, no water, no wifi and no idea when things would get back to normal. It’s hard to imagine how recently Kaikoura accommodation providers were facing that reality, and how quickly the local tourism industry has successfully picked itself up and adjusted to a new normal.
The quick turnaround in getting Kaikoura on its feet again hasn’t been easy. Even with things to do and places to stay largely up and running, access and awareness continues to be a challenge. The wider tourism industry has stepped in to help where it can, with support from the TIA, NZTA and regional tourism operators from around the South Island. To help get information out the AA is regularly updating motorists of alternative routes. But beyond this, it’s time for a shift in thinking both for travellers and operators to create more opportunities for the region.
Many have already recognised that Kaikoura isn’t the road trip stopover that it once was, especially given the drive it now takes to get there. But just because it’s not part of the journey, doesn’t mean that people aren’t adjusting their travel to make it their destination instead.
In the past domestic travellers often struggled to find rooms in Kaikoura during the holidays, but many of the accommodation providers I spoke with said that changed this summer. They saw people from nearby regions flock to the area to take advantage of the quieter season and tick it off their bucket lists. Meanwhile international tourists continue to travel to the region as information spreads that Kaikoura is open for business.
The town has come a long way since November, but even so, lower occupancy rates for 2017 are expected by most in the area, as they wait for roads to be opened and easy access to return to the area.
Being able to roll with the punches and adapt to change is part of the DNA of any successful hospitality business, but in such extreme circumstances how do you even begin to prepare?
It’s something accommodation providers across the country are having to think about given the reality that the impacts of a significant natural event are always a risk for all businesses. Not everyone can afford to have a contingency fund, but everyone can (and must under recent legislation) have an emergency plan on how to protect your guests and your business from risks, and get through the initial impact of major incidents in the months following.
It’s hard to think of the future when you’re dealing with so much happening right in front of you, but a good plan gives you the ability to do just that. The way you handle your guests at the worst of times can have a real impact on repeat business and referrals in the future when you really need them.
Ultimately, being able to recognise and promote opportunities, adapt to change and create a plan for emergencies are all necessary parts of any successful business. The operators in Kaikoura are proving each day that challenges are survivable if you work hard, work together and keep looking for those openings that will get you to your next new normal. Their efforts and results are a good example to all tourism businesses of how to manage when disaster strikes.