Personal Travel Managers Explore Middle Earth and More
From the natural thermal wonders of Rotorua to the subterranean magic of Waitomo, an opportunity to experience some of the highlights of the upper North Island on a TravelManagers exclusive self-drive famil was a fantastic opportunity for six personal travel managers (PTMs).
TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, says the six-day, five-night famil was the participants’ reward for their achievements in an Air New Zealand/ANZCRO sales initiative run during February and March.
“To qualify, PTMs were required to sell a specified number of trans-Tasman on Air New Zealand and make a new booking with ANZCRO, Ski Express or Kirra Tours,” Gazal explains, adding that places were allocated not just to those who achieved the highest sales or growth in sales but also to randomly-selected qualifying agents.
A total of eight PTMs participated on this famil hosted by Kylie Wapp, ANZCRO’s Sales Executive for Victoria & Tasmania and escorted by Gabriel Fonesca, Air New Zealand’s Melbourne-based Business Development Manager.
The group started their self-drive itinerary with a night in central Auckland before heading south of the city and into the rolling green farmland of the Waikato region for a visit to the world-famous Waitomo Caves. From here, they continued to Rotorua for a four-night stay in the North Island’s adventure capital, which all eight participants acclaimed as a standout destination.
“Every single guide that hosted our activities, all the locals we met and the hotel staff were outstanding – the service and warm welcome in every destination/activity was just incredible,” enthuses PTM Laurin Taggart. “Everyone we had the pleasure of meeting had a fantastic sense of humour and made the experiences fun!”
Taggart, who is representative for Forster, NSW, says she particularly enjoyed dining at the city’s Stratosphere restaurant, and adds that she will be recommending that clients allow time for a wine tasting at Volcanic Hills winery: “You can’t buy this wine in Australia and it is the most delicious wine I have had the pleasure of tasting, especially the pinot gris!”
The group took part in activities in Rotorua that ranged from adrenaline-pumping, such as a jetboat tour of Lake Rotorua and a zipline adventure ride through the treetops of the nearby Mamaku Plateau, to a relaxing soak at the famous thermal waters of the Polynesian Pools, and a chance to get to meet some real locals at Rainbow Springs’ Kiwi Encounter.
Alison Parker, representative for Swan View, WA, says another highlight was a cultural experience at the Tamaki Maori Village, which provided the opportunity to be immersed in the sights, sounds and activity of a traditional Maori village, from tattooing and weaving to carving and warrior training.
“The evening we spent at Tamaki Village was so interesting, and the presentations were clearly heartfelt by the staff – I came away with a very real sense of Maori culture and they couldn’t have been more welcoming,” she reports.
The attraction which provided the most thrills in one spot was Velocity Valley, which describes itself as New Zealand’s one and only, ultimate adventure playground thanks to the five unique adventures on offer.
“WOW!!” was the description provided by Taggart, who was delighted by the adrenaline-pumping experiences that included a bungy jump, a human-powered monorail race track and the only jet sprint experience in New Zealand.
Not all of the adventures offered were enjoyed by every participant, according to Parker, whose preference was for the jet boat ride and the Freefall Xtreme, which is the Southern Hemisphere’s only outdoor wind tunnel.
“But the teenagers and young adults would go wild for this place, with all the crazy rides,” she adds, noting that Rotorua is a destination that can provide fun for young families, adrenaline junkies and everyone in between.
The final day of the itinerary saw the group head back towards Auckland, calling in at Hobbiton Movie Set near the sleepy Waikato town of Matamata along the way. Set on picturesque farmland, with stunning views of the nearby Kaimai Ranges, this is billed as an opportunity to discover the real Middle Earth, thanks to its former use as a location for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.
Guided tours show off 44 unique hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Pub and the famous party tree, all of which is set within a working sheep and beef farm and described by Parker as a major highlight of her time in New Zealand.
“It’s such a magical place and of course it would be of great interest to Hobbit or Lord of the
Rings fans, but I’m sure that even non-fans would enjoy the movie production aspect of the tour.”
All in all, the itinerary was considered a major success, with all eight PTMs agreeing that New Zealand is an easy destination to recommend to their clients.
“New Zealand ticks every single box for me: the culture, amazing food, wine, people, incredible activity options and not too far away in terms of flying time. It is vastly different to Australia and very easy to navigate. I love NZ!” says Taggart