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Manaakitanga vs. Gratitude!

Is manaakitanga (the “process of showing respect / care for others”) the opposite of gratitude (“showing appreciation”)? One is being duty-bound to give, whilst the other is conveying a positive emotion for receiving something. In simple terms, and while not the same language (Whakawhetai is Māori for gratitude), these words could be opposites, and can generate the same depth of emotion for the recipient. Both actions are fundamental to tourism in Aotearoa.

Tourism is the biggest industry in Aotearoa. At its peak in 2019 it was a 40 billion dollar industry. Currently tourism is a shadow of its former self, but signs are that it is in recovery mode – 2019-20 cruise season in Tauranga totalled 110 berths approx. (220k passengers), the expected cruise berths for season 2022-23 is 102 (180k passengers). This would indicate that Aotearoa is still a desirable destination and, given that manaakitanga underpins cultural tourism, there is no surprise that Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta has referred to cultural tourism as our “definitive advantage”.

Intimate cultural tourism experiences connect with the heart of our international manuhiri (visitor). Processes such as, Pōwhiri (“invitation” and “ritual of encounter” ) and Whakatau (“to welcome”) break down barriers and open their hearts. These customs are innately authentic to Māori and, with manaakitanga prevalent throughout, they are so effective in connecting manuhiri with Tangata Whenua (the “people of the land”) and their kōrero (“stories”) – it is stunning to witness.

Gratitude doesn’t seem as prevalent in our industry though. The Covid-induced “visitor famine” of the past couple of years thrust some behaviours out into the open – these have been stunning to witness too, but for the wrong reasons. The Government has provided an astounding amount of support for the tourism industry, but at times you wouldn’t have thought so, with some of the criticism lobbed in their direction from tourism (operators & industry bodies).

Upon reflection I wonder if (prior to Covid) our industry was focused more on increasing visitor numbers than serving the current visitors better. Therefore, I wonder too, if there is a tension between our natural ability to Manaaki and our desire to be grateful – if so, I’m concerned for our industry. The tourism leaders of Aotearoa have a responsibility to drive behaviours for our industry; manaakitanga AND gratitude should be at the top of the list.

If we can maybe re-learn how to be grateful (i.e. show gratitude), tourism in Aotearoa will ascend once again.

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