Rotorua claims it’s adventure capital of NZ

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North Island visitor hotspot Rotorua has kicked up a stink by branding itself New Zealand’s adventure capital – traditionally Queens­town’s mantle. 

The Bay of Plenty city is challenging Queenstown’s dominance in adrenalin-fuelled tourism by claiming it is the country’s number one extreme activities mecca. 

“Rotorua is New Zealand’s adventure capital, with something to do every minute of every day,” its website claims. 

Queenstown’s NZSki boss James Coddington, who grew up in the Bay of Plenty, says: “That’s a bold call. 

“It doesn’t even come close. Queenstown is the true four-season destination, adventure tourism capital of the world. You can try to compare yourself to that but there’s no place that comes close.” 

Coddington adds: “I’m pretty sure Lonely Planet coined the term [adventure capital]. We haven’t coined it ourselves – it’s a term that people have put on us. You don’t go out there and put your own label on yourself – it’s lame.” 

Rotorua offers many of the same adventure activities as Queenstown – including jetboating, skydiving, mountain biking, a luge and white-water rafting.

It is also home to the world’s first Zorbing site and the Shweeb – a pedal-powered monorail. 

Destination Rotorua Mark­eting (DRM) marketing boss Kelly Stewart says: “The reality is Rotorua boasts a number of world-firsts and world-exclusive adventure tourism activities and we believe we have an adventure offering that rivals any city in NZ. 

“Rotorua has seen itself as the adventure capital of NZ for a long time with adventure playing a big part in Rotorua’s product offering which is communicated through key messaging.” 

The city launched a domestic marketing campaign ‘Famously Rotorua’ this week aimed at Aucklanders. It will run for three years, aiming to change perceptions of the destination. 

“Rotorua being the adventure capital of NZ is a key proposition,” Stewart says. 

AJ Hackett Bungy co-founder/chairman Henry van Asch says: “It is always quite flattering when someone tries to copy you. 

“It’s often said Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, so they could be trying to tuck in behind that and be the adventure capital of NZ. 

Maybe they think what they’ve got going on there is going to surpass Queenstown’s delights but I don’t think that’s very likely. 

“We could set up a competition. I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to position it.” 

Skydive firm NZONE has operations in both cities, although Queenstown is the stronger business. 

NZONE business development manager Derek Melnick says: “It’s positive for NZ’s positioning as an adventure destination as a whole. 

“We have such good airline connectivity at the moment into Queenstown. 

“That to me is more paramount than the perception of another destination offering something more competitive. 

“The access is critical and it looks like the [Queenstown] airport corporation and airlines are advancing that so I’m pretty optimistic really.” 

Melnick says Rotorua tourism bosses are taking a lead from Queenstown’s success after recognising the previous limitations of their product – Maori culture experiences, the geysers and spas – which led to it being a one-night destination. 

“That will be driving their thinking,” he says. 

“Expanding their adventure offering creates more of a reason to stay. 

“But they’re still plagued with terrible airline connectivity. It’s very expensive to fly there even domestically.” 

Queenstown-based Skyline Enterprises has luge operations in both places, and Queenstown-based Skyline boss Jeff Staniland says: “The Rotorua luge tracks are longer and probably faster, so I’d say Rotorua wins on the 
adventurous luge front.”