Hot on the heels of Rugby World Cup, and a bag full of international tourism accolades from 2011, New Zealand is set to stay in the international spotlight for 2012.
The 2011 collection of significant awards - designating New Zealand as hot, popular and eco-friendly - confirms Aotearoa New Zealand as a top international destination for visitors looking to fulfill their travel dreams.
Travel authority Lonely Planet has picked New Zealand’s Southern Lakes in the ‘top 10 regions to visit in 2012’, and New Zealand was voted top global eco-tourism destination at both World Traveller and Viagens e Turismo tourism awards in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
New Zealand ranked third strongest country brand in the 2011 FutureBrand Country Brand Index (CBI), and in the past 12 months many individual Kiwis - sports people, film-makers, authors, designers, artists, wine-makers and tourism operators - have been recognised as among the best in their field.
New Zealand is among the most researched destinations for UK tourists according to flight comparison website Skyscanner’s 2012 global travel trends report - an analysis of flight search data from 15 million monthly users.
Spain remains the favourite British destination, but a 35% year-on-year increase puts New Zealand in the top 10 destinations receiving growing interest from the British travelling public.
In October, The Telegraph (UK) readers named New Zealand as their second favorite worldwide destination at the Telegraph Travel Awards, and Wanderlust (UK) travel magazine readers voted New Zealand their third most satisfying holiday destination.
Rugby World Cup which brought 133,000 visitors - including significant numbers of UK tourists - to New Zealand in September and October, also delivered New Zealand landscapes and culture along with live rugby coverage to a massive international viewing audience in 230-plus countries.
For 2012, two New Zealand regions have been singled out for international attention.
The Southern Lakes region which includes three major New Zealand tourist destinations - Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Fiordland - is the only New Zealand region to feature in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel 2012’. Queenstown and Southern Lakes is ranked at #8 for its year-round activities and spectacular scenery.
Kaikoura - New Zealand’s southern whale watching capital - became the first destination in the world to achieve gold in a new global green benchmark for community sustainability efforts. The Gold Community certification awarded by Green Globe recognises the Kaikoura community’s efforts and contribution to New Zealand’s world-leading sustainable tourism credentials.
Cycling and hiking
In 2012, there will be plenty to entice travellers to experience Destination New Zealand’s natural wonders, unique culture and lifestyle including some outstanding new cycling and walking attractions.
New Zealand’s developing national cycle trail project - 18 ‘great rides’ through some of the country’s iconic landscapes - is on track for completion towards the end of the year / early 2013. Several cycle ways are already open and others will be opened progressively during this summer and over the coming months.
The ‘great rides’ will join New Zealand’s well established network of nine ‘great walks’ - multi-day hiking treks through a series of wild New Zealand landscapes which include the famed Tongariro Crossing, in the volcanic central North Island, and the Milford Track through the dual world heritage parks of Fiordland on the South Island’s remote southwestern coast.
For intrepid hikers, the Te Araroa Trail - traversing the length of New Zealand - will provide the newest and ultimate walking experience but there are also many opportunities for recreational walkers as the 3000-kilometre trail covers a multitude of shorter day and overnight walks.