Rotorua's adventure tourism industry is poised to take off thanks to the re-establishment of a world-class training course.
The Adventure Tourism course, originally run for 20 years through Waiariki Institute of Technology and later Toi Ohomai, produced a huge amount of talent and was a major reason for cementing Rotorua as one of the premier adventure tourism destinations in the world.
The course has been on a three-year hiatus, but a new generation of students will breathe life into the industry once the course is back up and running in March 2022.
Canopy Tours General Manager Paul Button says Rotorua boasts many unique attractions and the geography here lends itself to being an outdoor adventurers paradise.
“There are activities like rafting on the waterfalls of the Kaituna, mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa Forest, the activities in the trees like Canopy Tours and the Treewalk as well as the activities on the lake with jet boating, sea kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.
“Over the past three years, the destination has been hamstrung by a lack of trained outdoor leaders to support this popular and fast-growing adventure industry.”
In a bid to combat this, a collection of 20 adventure leaders have been working with Toi Ohomai to fill the labour gap that was created when the adventure tourism course stopped in 2018.
Button has been one of the drivers to get this course back and up and running.
“Rotorua is a magical place and has so much potential to deliver the best visitor experience in the world. Over the years we have seen fewer and fewer people from Rotorua apply for our guiding roles and we have had to travel NZ recruiting from other outdoor schools and polytechs. Our best employees have been from Waiariki and Toi Ohomai, they are professional, highly skilled and passionate about their home.
“Currently, we have six graduates employed and one is in our senior leadership team. There was something special about that adventure tourism course and the people who taught, I am thrilled we have it back,” Button says.
“There is no reason that every guide we employ shouldn’t come from Rotorua and this course.”
The course is part of the Sport and Recreation portfolio, headed up by Ruth Naidoo, who has been working alongside industry leaders to build a curriculum that is focused on teaching the skills the industry needs to employ graduates.
She says the re-establishment of the course is exciting and that she can’t wait to see her students fill the local labour shortage of outdoor leaders.
“It’s exciting and inspiring to work with the 20 representatives from the industry,” Naidoo says.
“It is humbling to see the passion within the industry, they are driven to make this course a success and help their industry thrive in the years to come. They have committed to being hands-on and to support the students in work placements, field trips and even classroom activities.”
Naidoo says world-class tutors will be teaching this course and inspiring students.
“Nikki Kelly is a world champion rafter and extreme kayaker, and Stevie Walls has worked in the tourism industry for 20 years and is also a veteran NZ touch player. They bring the perfect blend of teaching excellence and real-life experience. These guys are really positive role models for our rangatahi.”
The course is aiming to deliver the best tuition possible and the key to its success will be making the most of the world-class products Rotorua has to offer.
The activity operators that have been working with Naidoo range from long-standing businesses Skyline Skyrides, River Rats, Zorb, and Velocity Valley, to new start-ups including Paddle Board Rotorua and the NZ Whitewater Academy.
NZ Whitewater Academy co-founder Rob Collister says they are 100 per cent committed to making the course a success.
“These students will be our future outdoor leaders and employees. I don’t see a future without them.”
The course is now called the NZ Certificate in Outdoor and Adventure Education. It will include kayaking, rafting, ropework work, mountain biking, bush skills, sustainability, hospitality skills and a whole lot more.
The course will teach the stories of Rotorua and have Tikanga Māori embedded throughout.
It opens as a Level 4 course, but will have scope for Level 5 and a degree pathway in future. Enrolment is now open and the course starts in March.
Learn more about the New Zealand Certificate in Outdoor and Adventure Education.