Ziptrek Ecotours aims to educate and inspire New Zealand’s leaders of tomorrow towards long-term environmental and sustainable practices with a pioneering new eco-education outdoor learning programme in Queenstown.

The company is using its architecturally designed treehouses and ziplines high on Bob’s Peak as an ‘outdoor classroom’ to showcase sustainable tourism at work and how businesses can future-proof for environmental, social and financial success.

The interactive eco-education programme is primarily aimed at tertiary students, career advisors and educators and is a practical ‘take’ on the STEM curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.  Tours are custom-designed to align with each group’s academic requirements.

Science is covered off with discussions on Ziptrek’s biodiversity, introduced species and Predator Free 2050 support as well as its work in becoming a Carbon Zero business. Technology talks to the systems and design used to streamline Ziptrek’s business, such as remote area solar energy powering cameras and gates, while the structural design benefits and challenges of the treehouses and ziplines is a must for engineers. Maths is applied to the metrics measuring Ziptrek’s business and the physics and cable design in ziplines.

The two-hour experience starts from $49 per person and includes a tailored talk by one of the team, a site exploration, and a zip down the world’s steepest tree to tree zipline – dropping 30 storeys in 10 seconds at speeds of up to 70kmph.   There are also options to upgrade to either the four-line Moa Tour or premium six-line Kea tour.

The outdoor learning initiative aligns with Ziptrek’s deep commitment to education, sustainability and conservation.   It forms part of its ongoing work under New Zealand’s Tourism Sustainability Commitment and the Future-Fit framework, a global and open-sourced sustainability framework relating to UN development goals.

Other initiatives within its education programme include a Paper4Trees recycling project with pre-schools and schools, and Queenstown Resort College internships.

Ziptrek executive director Trent Yeo believes that while COVID-19 has created opportunity for a tourism reset and renewed focus on sustainability, more education is needed to achieve New Zealand’s vision to lead the world in sustainable tourism.

“We hope our new eco-education tour will help inform, inspire and empower New Zealand’s leaders of tomorrow to think more deeply about doing business in a way that creates long-term value for our people, our economy and our environment,” he says.

“Our tour turns theory into practice through ‘outside the classroom’ learning and helps participants experience first-hand some of the exciting and innovative career pathways within the tourism industry.

“We also demonstrate how our business decisions, centred around making the right call for the environment and our community, have translated into a world-class adventure experience and sustainable tourism business.”

Early uptake on the programme has proven successful with several tertiary institutions, including ARA Institute of Canterbury and the Auckland-based Crown Institute of Studies, which provides training in travel and tourism hospitality, health and wellbeing, business and computing, giving it rave reviews.

“I’ve heard from all the career advisors and teachers who experienced your programme that your company is inspirational and futuristic,” says Dr Josephine Do, Managing Director of Crown Institute of Studies.

Career/education advisors from Southland Careers and Transition Education (CATE) also visited recently to better understand employment possibilities for young people from their region, careers in the tourism sector and how places like Queenstown are adapting in response to a COVID world.

The programme’s been welcomed by regional tourism body Destination Queenstown which also presents to visiting groups.

“Ziptrek is one of many Queenstown operators which has thought outside the square to develop new and exciting programmes and product in the aftermath of Covid,” says DQ acting General Manager Ann Lockhart.

“We’re fully supportive of their education initiative, especially as this helps us demonstrate that there IS a future in tourism for our young people, with exciting and innovative career pathways in the industry. We have some of the best tourism operators in the country running businesses here.”

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