Saturday, January 5, 2013

Auckland City Misson Christmas Spirit

The Auckland City Mission Christmas visitors as reported in the Weekend Herald, Saturday 5 January, 2013

The Xing Yu [Lucky Jade] Tour company activities are not illegal however, their mean-spirited appearance at the City Mission’s Christmas dinner caused shame and offence to the Chinese community at large.

The Chinese people in New Zealand are not ungenerous as has been reported by the Herald. They made a donation to the Auckland City Mission because of Lucky Jade’s usury. This generosity has a positive side too. It also reinforces the inherent generosity of New Zealanders like those who support the City Mission appeals.  
They did not have to do this and we must know ourselves that many other kiwi communities would respond in this generous way.
This says much about the Chinese community and their commitment to this country which sadly, for much of the 19th and 20th century discriminated against them in the most appalling ways.
Because of their actions Lucky Jade is considered immoral and potentially damaging to our tourism industry if allowed to continue unchecked. Are Lucky Jade or other touts like them still offering these tours? Of course they are. Touts are symbolic of Third World economics.
It would appear at first glance that Ming Xi and his party had real value for money. $88 for a day trip is ridiculously cheap. This is the epiphany of a deregulated society. The Lucky Jade Tour Company profits by this model. They use public spirited organisations like the Auckland City Mission and religious groups to provide free sustenance and entertainment. They also exploit local rate payers, in this case those of Auckland and Rotorua.  
Mt Eden and Murawai beach are constantly patronised by unlicensed operators. Their activity undermines Auckland Natural Estate the actions of people who care for these natural assets and also threaten public access to them. Whereas licenced operators are controlled and play by the rules.
What other first world country would allow this freedom? Certainly not the Peoples Republic of China.
How do tourists know the skill levels of unlicensed operators, or whether they have relevant qualifications or licences or even how safe their vehicles and the other services they provide are?
Their business model will not assist the tourism industry or help grow a sustainable economy.
Lucky Jade and other operators like them impact on our national reputation and unfairly compete with other companies who are responsible operators.
Responsible companies pay their way, pay GST, ACC, and abide by New Zealand laws. Good employers mentor employees, offer training and career paths and pay a living wage. 
The tourism industry spends substantial funds collectively to market New Zealand as a wonderful destination. We celebrate our heritage, natural attractions and the cultures that make Auckland a most liveable city in world rankings. We also make community contributions to enhance the public estates and to make the tourism industry sustainable. 
This is increasingly an important contribution especially when central government has lost interest. Well healed and educated visitors, the interactive visitor, expect no less.
Businesses like Lucky Jade have no perception of what the tourist should actually experience.  If we all followed their model the real contribution that tourism makes to New Zealand Inc. would quickly disappear. 
If there had been an accident with Mr Xi and his tour group, they would not have had such a pleasant experience. Indeed an accident may have had expensive ramifications for the tax payer. 
The New Zealand Tourism Industry in the main, is a world class operation and internationally is regarded as such.
Economically it is as important as the dairy industry and is our largest employer.
Chris Roberts of Tourism New Zealand and Justin Hill of ATEED rightly say that visitors should book their activities and accommodation though accredited parties. Qualmark ensures that visitors will enjoy a safe experience that is value for money.
Unfortunately the tourism industry is toothless. There is little legislation that enforces standards.
Has the Lucky Jade Company ever been inspected?
The Prime Minister is the Minister of Tourism and yet light regulation ensures that cowboy operations will survive.
We have had loss of life in adventure sports, transport and aviation- including hot air ballooning. Monday 8 January 200 people attended a memorial service in Carteton. This was the first anniversary of the Carteton hot air ballooning accident. On that warm Wairarapa day which that town will never forget eleven families lost relatives who are now statistics and further testimony to the safety standards we accept in New Zealand.
We await the report of an enquiry into this incident. This will provide another opportunity to lift standards to hopefully prevent another incident? 
The costs of regimes for activities and accommodation should not be borne by ratepayers or tax payers. A very cost effective model is for all operators to be certified by Qualmark, which responsible tourism operators throughout New Zealand are. There may be better ways but in the absence of alternatives all operators should have a Qualmark licence. This will provide confidence for the all important overseas visitor. Internationally it will help branding for New Zealand within this most important industry.  
The lessons of Pyke River and the TV building in Christchurch should be a clarion call that cheap and cheerful models are not in our national interest. Tourism is too important an industry to New Zealand to tolerate standards that Lucky Jade and their ilk provide. 
Local bodies also need to lift their game. In the accommodation sector some have fire compliance, some do not. We all will be better served if local and central government worked together with industry to develop a plan to eliminate these cowboys before they deliver a Pyke River tragedy to our tourism industry.