Looking at NZ tourism’s past
Professor Paul Moon offers a unique look at the Edwardian era; a period that was fleeting but significant, perhaps nowhere more so than in Aotearoa New Zealand. We asked him some questions about his book: When did you discover the Handbook and why did you choose to write your book around it? I came across the book quite by accident when searching for something else. I had a bit of time, so sat down and began to read it. As I did, it became obvious that there was a huge story here about a completely different way of looking at the country’s attractions, and how they were experienced in the Edwardian era. Do you feel the regions promoted in the Handbook are still popular tourism destinations today and if so why/why not? Some of the regions, such as Rotorua, have been consistently popular, as they are a rarity — particularly for Northern Hemisphere visitors. However, other locations, such as Waiwera, which were enormously popular in the Edwardian period, no longer attract the same levels of interest, partly because of a change in what tourists are looking for. Why do you think we don’t draw attention to New Zealand’s curative properties anymore? Do you think this could be a positive drawcard for future tourism? Some of the science behind the claims of various hot springs having curative properties was dubious. However, the idea of visiting a spa is still extremely popular in parts of Europe, and is certainly an area of activity that could be revived in New Zealand, provided that the facilities were up to the right standard and the experience was appropriately marketed. Do you feel the Edwardian period was a significant period of history and if so why/why not? Many historians describe the Edwardian period as a time of transition — from the 19th century, which was characterised as being “Victorian” (which has several meanings), to the 20th century, which is a world we are more familiar with. Do think we have the same paradox they had in Edwardian times? Is the expansion of accommodation and developments not true to our green image? Conservation, in the way we see it, was not a major concern in the Edwardian era, but what tourists regarded as “pure” environments was highly valued. The notion of “untouched” native forests was especially appealing, and tourism operators ensured that accommodation was built close enough to unspoilt natural features, but not too close so as to ruin the character of those features. What was the most interesting or surprising part of history you discovered while writing this book? It was particularly surprising to discover that tourism in New Zealand in the Edwardian period was in many ways more organised than it is today, while remaining flexible enough to give tourists plenty of choice. Big tour operators controlled almost every aspect of the tourist experience. Was the Edwardian period the first time New Zealand use advertising to promote tourism? Advertising had been used since the Victorian era, but by the Edwardian period, it was more sophisticated and co-ordinated.