Kohutapu Lodge: Aotearoa’s First Regenerative Tourism Hub

Kohutapu Lodge

Tourism in the Bay of Plenty Led by Māori

New Zealand is a leader in regenerative tourism, and Māori tour operators play a key part in this. Kohutapu Lodge, which is in Murupara, an hour southeast of Rotorua, is a great example of this change because it lets visitors really experience modern Māori life.

More than just a traditional cultural show

Kohutapu Lodge offers a deeper experience than the usual dinner, dance, and marae trips that tourists take. Nadine Toe Toe, co-owner, calls it “real people tourism,” focusing on a “day in the life” experience where tourists interact with the community in a real way.

From eel fishing to bathing in the forest, there are many things to do at Kohutapu Lodge

People who stay at Kohutapu Lodge don’t just watch; they take part. Learning traditional ways to catch eels and helping to prepare the community hāngī are some of the things that people do. The lodge has things to offer outside of its own grounds. For example, the Whirinaki Forest Footsteps day tour goes into the nearby prehistoric jungle.

A Plan for Change: Revitalising Murupara

In 2013, the Toe Toe family moved from Rotorua to Murupara with the goal of turning the poor town around through tourism. Even though people didn’t believe her, Nadine had a clear goal: “Change a town through tourism.” Forestry used to be very important to Murupara’s economy, but it had been getting worse since the 1980s.

Making real connections is what the experience is all about

The small scale of Kohutapu and the cross-cultural interactions make it different from scripted acts. Tourists see a traditional welcome called haka pōwhiri and drink tea with older people from the area. Young people, who are often out of work, can find work and pride in showing off their town without costumes or stages.

Kohutapu Lodge giving the community more power: the economic impact

The money made by tourists from other countries doesn’t stop at Kohutapu Lodge. The money is put back into the community to help with things like grants, programmes that teach people how to get jobs, and other local projects. People in need have been given more than 30,000 hāngī food.

New Zealand is a leader in regenerative tourism

New Zealand is dedicated to sustainable tourism, which comes from Māori ideas like manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga. Responsible tourism is spelt out in the Tiaki Promise, which was started in 2018, and regenerative tourism is a top priority in the government’s 2023 strategy plan. Indigenous-led tours all over the country show off the country’s many cultures and scenery.

Kohutapu Lodge recognition as a leader in regenerative tourism

The New Zealand Tourism Awards gave Kohutapu Lodge the Regenerative Tourism Award in 2022. This showed how committed the lodge was to community development and constant return. People have said that Nadine’s method makes it easy for visitors and the Murupara community to talk to each other.

Conversations and Links: What Kohutapu Is All About

Co-owner of Kohutapu Lodge Karl Toe Toe stresses the value of kōrero (talk). The lodge encourages guests to share their stories and experiences. Beyond tourism, it’s about making real relationships, like when Karl took care of a lost eel when we went to the eel trap.

In a tourist industry that is always changing, Kohutapu Lodge stands out as an example of how authentic experiences and real community involvement can change things.