Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Date: 22 April 2009

Two ancient trees, both tourism icons of cultural significance, have united New Zealand and Japan in an agreement that is expected to boost tourism.

Waipoua Forest’s giant kauri tree Tane Mahuta and Jōmon Sugi, a giant cedar on Yakushima Island off the coast of Japan, have brought together two communities in a ground-breaking ‘Family of Ancient Trees’ agreement.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton says Yakushima is Japan’s most popular World Heritage Site in terms of domestic travel with around 250,000 Japanese visiting the island each year. The connection between the two trees will give Japanese nature-lovers a compelling reason to visit New Zealand.

"New Zealand’s natural beauty is already the key attraction for international visitors and the Japanese market is no exception," says George Hickton.

"The ancient trees project will add another dimension to promote New Zealand to this market as well as providing the regions increased opportunity for economic growth and employment through tourism."

Japanese officials including Tonao Hidaka, the Mayor of Yakushima, arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday and will travel to Northland to sign the agreement. The group is accompanied by media outletsKyodo News, MBC TV, Nishi Nihonnewspaper and Minami Nihonnewspaper, which have a combined audience of more than 3.5 million.

The signing ceremony will be attended by New Zealand guests including members of local iwi Te Roroa, local councillors, Tourism New Zealand representatives and the Minister of Conservation Tim Groser.

Alex Nathan, Chairperson for Te Roroa Whatu Ora Trust, says the relationship provides a significant opportunity to develop into practical and tangible gains for Te Roroa as an iwi and as a corporate identity.

"Te Roroa is proud to be in this relationship with the people of Yakushima; we have a lot we can learn from their experiences and look forward to sharing our experiences and knowledge with them. This is the beginning, the seed."

George Hickton says Tourism New Zealand intends to expand the initiative to include trees of significance from other countries around the world.

"The family tree project is a living example of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of the environment, a core value of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy. This project fits well with Tourism New Zealand's work in Japan to promote walking in our country and provides an opportunity to share New Zealand's environmental attractions with others."

Japan is New Zealand’s fifth largest tourism market and one of our highest spending markets. Though visitor arrivals from Japan have been in decline in recent years, we continue to welcome close to 100,000 Japanese visitors to New Zealand each year. In the year to December 2008 average spend by visitors from Japan increased 16 per cent to NZ$4,290.

Read more about Japan in the Japan Market Guide.

Source: Tourism New Zealand Feature

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