One of the New Zealand tourism industry’s most recognisable faces, Chris Roberts regularly makes headlines as his organisation, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, works closely with government to maintain the country’s thriving tourism sector.
Roberts grew up in Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty but has lived in Wellington since 1993. Growing up, he hoped to become a sports journalist, an ambition he partly realised at his very first job as a radio journalist at Radio 1XX in his hometown.
He spent his OE in the UK where he worked in hospitality, working as a barman at the Bath Hotel and later living and working in a pub in Surrey. “Back in New Zealand, I returned to radio journalism, including a stint in sports, which wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined as a kid.” Roberts then worked at Parliament and in the energy sector before joining Tourism NZ in 2012, moving to head up the TIA in 2014.
Looking back over his career, Roberts recalls many stand-out moments, including working as a journalist during the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake when his radio station provided a crucial civil defence link for the community. “At Parliament I got to work on the first national tourism strategy, Tourism 2010, which came out in 2001. I’m also very proud of the work we did to get a consistent version of the national anthem, introducing the Māori then English version that is standard today.”
Roberts was also on the front line in the contentious project to provide new power transmission lines into Auckland. He said the many highlights from his last five years with TIA include two updates of the industry’s guiding framework Tourism 2025, and the development of the Tourism Sustainability Commitment, which over 1200 businesses have signed up to.
Outside of work, Roberts enjoys indulging his sporting fanaticism, following and participating in a number of sports. “I’m still managing to play squash, a little rugby and cricket, and I’ve taken up running sprints – 60 and 100 metres. Turns out I’m pretty fast for someone over 50!” Most of all, he seeks out quality family time with his teenage sons and wife Rachel.