The New Zealand Story promoted by New Zealand’s tourism and trade organisations is one of ‘open spaces, open hearts and open minds.’ Rotorua is the true heart of New Zealand – both geographically and culturally - and we are on a fast forward mission together towards a new future for our people. We use the Maori term ‘Tatau tatau’ which means ‘We together’. Rotorua embodies the New Zealand Story and one of our chapters is working to create our own unique spa and hot springs destination - with truly open spaces, open hearts and open minds.
In similar fashion to the grand tours of Europe, thousands of people were travelling by ship and overland back in the late 1800s to see the geothermal and cultural wonders of Rotorua. At its peak in the early 1900s, with a population of only 3000, Rotorua was hosting 300,000 people a year. The potential for hot springs development was recognised by the government of the day who set up an entire ministry dedicated to tourism and hot springs, and constructed the stunningly beautiful Bath House, now home to the Rotorua Museum.
Rotorua sits within the Taupo Volcanic Zone which stretches 300 kilometres from Mount Tongariro in the Central Plateau to White Island in the Bay of Plenty. The zone is part of the mighty Pacific Ring of Fire and is steeped in Maori legends of early migrations and how the geothermal gifts from the gods came to be. They say when Taupo erupted the sound could be heard in China and the earth tilted on its axis.
New Zealand is a world-leader in geothermal energy and direct use. We live in a very powerful place. We are also the world’s largest exporter of logs to China so we are pretty keen to apply our ‘WoodFirst’ policy to the construction of new spas and hot springs using local timbers.
Rotorua is the birthplace of tourism in New Zealand, originally based around the historic Pink and White Terraces – often referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ - until Mount Tarawera erupted and buried them in 1886. Rotorua’s population now is just 65,000 yet we host 3.2 million visitors a year - 1.3 million of whom are international tourists. Australia’s east coast population of 10 million is just three and a half hours’ by air from Rotorua. A further two million people live within a three hour drive of Rotorua.
Our famous Redwoods forest mountain bike trails are ranked in the top ten in the world by Red Bull. And Skyline Rotorua has just opened a world-first gondola accessed downhill mountain bike gravity park on Mount Ngongotaha.
As with every other individual, organisation, city, country and continent we are facing the mega-trends of an ageing population and rising healthcare costs. In the next ten years in New Zealand the number of over 65s will treble. The average healthcare costs for a 75 year old versus a 55 year old are about seven times. We know that the best way to address these demographic and healthcare trends is for people to keep fit and healthy, and with a great sense of wellbeing. We are very keen on aspects such as natural medicine, massage and physiotherapy as alternatives to surgery particularly for joint problems. This is where we want to position ourselves.
With abundant natural resources and stunning locations, we have plans to create a major high value tourism destination based around becoming a true ‘Spa City’ – a unique, New Zealand world class spa and health destination. In association with the Hot Springs Alliance Group, global research has just been completed across 16 countries, 104 facilities and via 140 interviews to identify current successful commercial practices. In Rotorua we want to weave in complementary healthcare, and build on local expertise in cultural wellbeing and natural remedies. These include mere mere massage with rongoa, manuka with its super-bug anti-bacterial properties and native local herbs.
Existing facilities include Polynesian Spa, Tree Tops Lodge, Waiora Spa and Mokoia Island. Further development opportunities include an international-themed hot springs, family thermal park, eco-village and natural and cultural market segments.
We are very lucky to be able to work with James White and Charles Davidson who have led the global research and are helping us and landowners with various development and partnership opportunities. Grow Rotorua’s and the district council’s roles are essentially to create the vision, provide leadership and facilitate investment and job growth into the Rotorua district.
Francis Pauwels, Chief Executive, Grow Rotorua Ltd