Manaaki whenua, Manaaki tangata, Haere whakamua. Caring for land and people has always been the path to the future for Ziptrek Ecotours.

Two years ago Ziptrek became Queenstown’s first company to achieve zero carbon business status through Ekos, a carbon management entity helping organisations with minimise and offset to an international standard; but the journey began from Ziptrek’s inception all the way through 2020’s Covid disruption. 

When finalists were announced, with a suggestion from Antony Sproull from Air Milford, Southern region businesses including Ziptrek chartered a special flight to Christchurch to attend the 100% Pure New Zealand Qualmark finalist awards. 

This was a way in which to celebrate and come together after a rigorous 18 months, and of course ‘Pure Experience’ operators decided to offset the carbon together. 

From 47 finalists from around Aotearoa, all outstanding tourism operations, Ziptrek Ecotours was one of just 12 winners of the award.  It recognised businesses offering world-class experiences applying best practice in terms of sustainability by looking after the people and the land. 

Organised by Qualmark and partnering with Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand, operators had to have achieved Qualmark Gold status, the highest level of certification, to enter the awards. 

Applicants needed to show how they were embracing the tourism industry’s core values of manaakitanga (showing aroha to people and community), tiaki (duty of care for people and place) and whānau (maintaining connections, commitments and caring for your own people).

Ziptrek Ecotours’ director Trent Yeo says the group flight to collect the award wasn’t just about the carbon, but about camaraderie, people coming together to celebrate for better outcomes together than individually, particularly as a region.

“This was the second Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards and it was especially important this year to receive a big hug from our peers,” says Yeo.

“For me, these past eighteen months have been one of the toughest and greatest learning periods of my tourism career as an operator, businessperson and sustainability practitioner.

“I think the big learning here has been to ‘raft up’ in the rough seas we’re all experiencing right now. By that I mean, inside and outside your business you must take on opportunity and weather a storm that is bigger than yourself.

“The key question now is how do we move from surviving to thriving?”

Mr Yeo says its important more than ever before to recognise that tourism businesses are delivered by people who are part of a community contributing to their physical ecological environment, social fabric and economic ‘merry-go-round’. 

“Flying up the spine of the Southern Alps on a bluebird day to be named a winner in an area of business that means so much to our hardworking team is a reminder that tourism is more than just an economic driver,” says Yeo.

“Our whanaungatanga is important. After extended trauma for most of the industry, we have to take time and make the effort to care for ourselves.”