The Qualmark Gold Standard Award – What Does It Mean for You?
In December 2018, the team at New Zealand Trails were beyond delighted to receive a Gold Award from Qualmark, which you’ll see we’re now proudly displaying here on the website. It’s a true badge of honour and something we’ve worked very hard to achieve, but what does it mean for you, our guest?
New Zealand’s tourism industry
Tourism is a major part of New Zealand’s economy and directly employs some 7.5 per cent of our workforce. As a nation, we’re rightfully proud of our beautiful little country and we want to share it with appreciative guests from around the world. As a result, there are lots of different tourism providers operating here, both large and small, offering travellers a chance to enjoy New Zealand’s many varied delights for themselves. From New Zealand’s Great Walks and fun activities to our wineries and cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone. But in a vast sea of exciting activities and enticing adventures, how do you know that you’re booking with a reputable company and making the most of your valuable vacation time?
Enter Qualmark. Established some 25 years ago, Qualmark is a trusted independent body that awards official quality marks to tourism businesses that meet its strict criteria. Businesses are comprehensively evaluated by a Qualmark Tourism Business Advisor and then audited annually, which means they conduct regular and detailed onsite assessments and have a good nose through all the paperwork and procedures in place, both front and back of house. These guys really know their stuff and their exacting gaze doesn’t miss a thing as they scrutinise every aspect of the business (we admit, it’s a nerve-wracking process!).
As verified tourism experts, these advisors assess tourism operations based on the quality of the experience offered to guests, as well as the overall sustainability of the business from a people, planet and profit perspective. According to Qualmark, “Only those businesses that are delivering a quality sustainable experience, have safe principles and practices and showcase true New Zealand hospitality, are recognised through a Qualmark endorsement”.
When you choose a tourism provider with a Qualmark endorsement, you’ll enjoy peace of mind and have confidence that the experience you’re spending your hard-earned cash on is one of the highest quality experiences in New Zealand, as well as being a safe and sustainable operation.
The Qualmark logo
As you’re planning your trip and researching the various options available, it pays to look out for the Qualmark logo on the website or promotional material.
The logo features New Zealand’s official stylised silver fern, a national icon which you’ll also see adorning many of our sports teams. All tourism businesses that are part of the Qualmark quality licensing system will proudly display this image - look out for the ™ and accept no imposters!
You’ll also notice three badges below the silver fern, showing the core criteria by which Qualmark is awarded and rated. These three elements represent the key aspects by which businesses are held accountable and help travellers to understand what a Qualmark accreditation means: -
Light footprint – an environmentally friendly and holistically sustainable experience.
Safe & sound – where safe principles and practices are part of every experience.
Warm welcome – where you will always find a genuine welcome and true New Zealand hospitality.
It’s worth noting that only accommodation providers (so hotels, B&Bs etc) with the Qualmark endorsement have a star rating. You won’t see any stars on Qualmark logos for experience providers.
When you spot the Qualmark logo you can rest assured that you’re booking with a reputable company that’s working to protect and preserve New Zealand (like Kyle and Jamie from New Zealand Trails are doing here), looks after both its guests and staff, and prides itself on offering first-class hospitality.
Bronze, Silver or Gold?
Even among the best of the best, there are always standouts, so Qualmark uses a tier rating system so travellers know just how good, great or truly outstanding an experience really is. Businesses are awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold award that indicates the level to which they’re meeting all the criteria. To quote Qualmark itself, the following standards must be met:
“To achieve a Bronze Award a tourism business must meet all Qualmark’s minimum standards across 40 key components contained in the Sustainable Tourism criteria. It identifies a business with a high level of professionalism, an awareness of the impact it has on the environment and a customer-centric approach.”
“A Silver Award is evidence of a sophisticated tourism business that consistently exceeds visitor expectations. Proactive leadership and management ensure that a culture of high performance is evident throughout the entire business. The business will have a real focus on continuously improving their economic, social and environmental performance to ensure the tourism product they deliver is a genuine, constantly improving sustainable experience.”
“A Gold Award recognises the best sustainable tourism businesses in New Zealand, with the delivery of exceptional customer experiences an integral part of everything they do. A Gold Sustainable Tourism Award identifies those businesses leading the way in making the New Zealand tourism industry a world class sustainable visitor destination.”
Over the years we’ve honed our trips and are proud to offer our guests the finest small group tours in New Zealand. Not only does the Gold Award indicate that our travellers will enjoy an experience of the highest quality, but it also means that our behind-the-scenes team and incredible Trails guides are happy and safe too.
Safety for both our guests and staff is paramount and we were told by the assessor that our policies, procedures and documentation are some of the very best they’ve seen. It’s reassuring for you and your family to know that if anything should happen during your travels, no matter how small, you’re in safe hands and will be extremely well cared for.
Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship and Conservation
‘Kaitiakitanga’ is the Maori word for guardianship and conservation. The Maori people believe there is a deep connection between humans and the natural world, and that it is our responsibility to protect New Zealand’s environment, culture and natural resources for future generations. As environmental issues increasingly come to the forefront globally, it is vital that New Zealand’s tourism industry creates a symbiotic relationship with the land. It needs to back itself and protect the environment that provides it with such a rich variety of experiences for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
Qualmark and compliant tourism businesses are very aware of this fact and are fully embracing the concept, with sustainability a key aspect on which businesses are assessed. To achieve a Gold Award, a tourism business must view kaitiakitanga as a fundamental part of their operation. They must blaze a trail for other tourism operations, continually working to guard and conserve the land, minimizing the impact they have on it.
They must actively pursue innovative and more efficient ways to reduce the energy in and waste expelled. The business must also actively encourage participation in its environmental stance, initiatives and culture. In doing so, Gold Award holders are spearheading the effort to ensure that New Zealand is not only a world-class visitor destination, but one that is sustainable on a long-term basis.
Where to from here?
We try not to toot our own horn too much, but it feels awesome to know that here at New Zealand Trails, we’re leading the way and are at the top of our game – it’s good for us and it’s great for you. But even with Qualmark’s highest honour under our belt, we certainly won’t be resting on our laurels. We’re always looking for ways to impress our guests and go the extra mile, as well as working to futureproof the sustainability and quality of our trips. The future is looking bright, or ‘golden’ should we say!
So now you know what a Qualmark Gold Award means, you can confidently look to book an incredible trip with a provider that offers the highest quality experience in New Zealand. In the meantime though, if you have any questions or want to chat about your New Zealand trip, feel free to get in touch at any stage or you can request a free copy of our brochure here.