First payout: Altitude Tours owner Heidi Farren, left, with Karen O'Donahoo and Neil Simpson, of the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust, and Kiwi Welcome founder Sam Brough


A social enterprise born out of the Covid lockdown made its first charitable donation last Wednesday.

Less than two months after it launched, Kiwi Welcome distributed $250 to the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust.

Founder Sam Brough hopes it’s the first of many payouts to environmental and community causes in the region.

Starting from an idea in April, he’s created the enterprise with a mission to prove sustainable tourism can work.

For an upfront six-month membership fee, visitors get special offers and discounts for accommodation, hospo, car hire and tourism operators in Queenstown, Wanaka and Central Otago.

Brough says Kiwi Welcome’s purpose is to ‘‘transform tourism into a force for good’’ by incentivising visitors to travel in a more thoughtful way, and to generate funds that’ll preserve the attributes the region’s tourism industry is built on — its beautiful environment and friendly communities.

It keeps a small portion of membership fees to cover costs, with the rest going ‘‘out the door’’.

‘‘Our intent is to be giving as much as possible away.’’

Brough says while membership numbers are ‘‘modest’’ so far, he’s aiming for 10,000 within 12 months, which would generate about $500,000 for distribution.

‘‘It’s nothing to write about yet from a numbers point of view, but what’s really important is that we prove this model working at any scale.

‘‘It’s a big signal to those early members who took a chance, and really like the mission we’re on, to show them what their money actually does, and how that gets put to good use.’’

Businesses can join Kiwi Welcome for free – without fees or commissions – with more than 50 on board so far, he says.

Wakatipu Reforestation Trust was chosen as the first payout recipient after Brough plucked business partner Altitude Tours’ name from a hat and its owner, Heidi Farren, selected the trust.