Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meet the People - 14

Titirangi, Auckland. May 2009. Ajr
Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – John Panoho (Parawhau, Ngati Whatua, Ngapuhi), of Titirangi, Auckland is one of the original pioneers of authentic Maori tourism in New Zealand. John is the owner of Navigator Tours, which he set up in 2000 – although his career in tourism goes way back before that. After twenty years in the New Zealand Police force, working in the drug squad in Auckland and the Waikato, John changed his path and in 1984, spying an opportunity to present the best of Maori to an international audience, he started a small tour company, determined to show the world that there was much more to Maori than “singers and dancers in grass skirts.” In the years since he has been involved in a wide variety of Maori tourism initiatives, all aimed at changing people’s perceptions of what contemporary Maori tourism could be. “We started out as a little supplier doing high-end tours and back in 1984 there were no other Maori operators apart from Te Puia in Rotorua,” says John. “And we were promoting the same basic principles then, as we are today. Our idea with Navigator was to capture some of the dozens of Maori suppliers that have erupted onto the scene in the last ten years and take the best of them – those with an authentic tikanga component – to the international marketplace.” The company has now established a number of operational luxury and general tourism brands that include Maori cultural components – all customized to a wide range of clients from single independent travelers to delegates, corporate and inbound tour groups. Whether people are looking to sit down and talk with Maori professor, be taken to a Maori carving studio or into the bush with a Maori chef, John can organize it. “Our luxury food, wine and culture itineraries give people the chance to step into Kiwi lifestyles and to experience some unique aspects of contemporary Maori life. We’re continually looking for innovative ways to get the message across. Hunting and gathering for instance, is a quintessential part of Maori culture and that includes the exploration of core Maori principles involved in that. We want people to leave us with a much deeper understanding of what it means to be Maori in contemporary New Zealand.” In terms of Maori tourism in general, John believes we still have a long way to go yet. "I’m troubled by the fact that we don’t have enough experienced Maori at the forefront of New Zealand tourism; and that we have no real benchmarks for what authentic Maori tourism should be. There is certainly plenty of room for growth yet,” he concludes. www.navigatortours.co.nz

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