Outstanding tourism businesses and individuals who are leading the way in creating the future of New Zealand's tourism industry have been recognised in the industry's most respected annual awards.
Award winners were finally revealed at an online event after a three-month postponement due to Covid-19 disruptions.
Six leading individuals and 23 businesses were in the running for 11 prestigious tourism awards, which showcase and celebrate the tourism industry's individual and business successes.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said it was an absolute pleasure to finally acknowledge the winners.
"Anticipation has been building for even longer than expected, so it was a joy to finally get the industry together online to celebrate these incredible finalists and award winners."
The Sir Jack Newman Award for Outstanding Industry Leader was awarded to prominent tourism consultant Dave Bamford, who has spent a lifetime creating sustainable tourism solutions to benefit economies, individuals and businesses.
Loren Heaphy, general manager of destination and attraction at ChristchurchNZ, was named tourism's Emerging Leader. Judges were excited by Heaphy's entry, noting that she stood out as 'the full package' and that they were 'blown away by her story.'
"Heaphy has already shifted mindsets in the way that you present an organisation. She will continue to do extraordinary things on behalf of the industry."
Ceillhe Sperath, TIME Unlimited Tours, was commended for her commitment to growing a business for the sake of the community, winning her the Tourism Industry Champion Award.
Wellington Zoo took home the Environment Award. Judges were particularly impressed by the extended reach the zoo achieves by focusing on its supply chains.
"The fact they have worked with suppliers down to the toys in the gift shop shows a genuine deep commitment to the environment.
"It is not only the fact that the zoo has been doing good things for a long time, but that they continue to innovate."
The Dark Sky Project was celebrated as "a fantastic project which truly delivers the Maori message and embraces everything the tourism industry is about.
The team took home the He Kai Kei Aku Ring Maori Tourism Award.
Judges were impressed with the metrics National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa were able to report, with proven results winning them the Conservation Award.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari - a finalist in two categories - was awarded the Community Engagement Award for its "true community engagement programme, which could become a legacy initiative for the wider community and Aotearoa."
Rotorua's Redwoods Treewalk & Nightlights won the Visitor Experience Award, an "absolute standout" in the eyes of the judges.
The Industry Collaboration Award went to Nelson Regional Development Agency, due to their strong results and the legacy of their Zero Carbon Itinerary project's impact.
"They are pushing the sector forward and there was genuine collaboration in creating the itinerary. This initiative has the potential to change the way the sector organises itself going forward, and the way tourism is seen."
An "absolute commitment to people," combined with a forward-thinking and strategic focus, won iFLY Indoor Skydiving NZ Ltd the Employer of Choice Award.
Finally, an inspiring story from the West Coast took home the much-coveted Resilience and Innovation Award, beating 38 other entrants to the top spot. Judges said this was one of the most difficult categories to judge, as the quality and quantity of entries was 'outstanding.' ultimately, Waiho Hot Tubs' pioneering spirit and investment on behalf of the town and community won the judges over.
The awards recognised individuals and organisations that are living the values of the Tourism Sustainability Commitment. The full list of winners and award sponsors is below.
Tourism Industry New Zealand Trust - Community Engagement Award
Department of Conservation - Conservation Award
Tourism Talent Employer of Choice Award
Toitū EnviroCare Environment Award
Tourism New Zealand Industry Collaboration Award
He Kai Kei Aku Ringa Māori Tourism Award
Westpac Resilience and Innovation Award
NZME Visitor Experience Award
PATA New Zealand Trust Emerging Tourism Leader Award
Nicole Botting, Maverick Digital
Loren Heaphy, ChristchurchNZ
Eve Lawrence, Haka Tourism Group
Marsh Tourism Industry Champion Award
Matt Stenton, Go with Tourism
Ceillhe Sperath, TIME Unlimited Tours