Tour operators on New Zealand's Stewart Island offer pay-what-you-like adventures

Fern trees near the coast on Stewart Island.
Rakiura is hoping to entice visitors back to the island © Shutterstock

Two tour companies on New Zealand’s Stewart Island (Rakiura) are letting customers pay what they want for adventure activities later this year. About 30km south of NZ’s South Island, Stewart Island is known for being home to several species of flightless birds, including kiwis and penguins, which thrive here because few predators have been introduced.

"Tourism plays a massive part in driving the Rakiura economy and allowing people to live down here", Ollie Peckham, the co-owner of Stewart Island Adventures, told Lonely Planet. "With COVID shutting down all tourism, we figured it would be a slow start getting back up and running for the island".

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The head of a New Zealand native Kaka parrot (Nestor meridionalis) ©Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock

Tours with Stewart Island Adventures, a startup snorkelling and freediving operator, and bird-spotting company Beaks and Feathers will be pay-what-you-like ‘koha’ scheme, the Māori word for gift or donation, throughout September, after which the pricing scheme will be re-evaluated. Half-day tours with Stewart Island Adventures usually cost about NZ$160.

"With only Kiwis traveling New Zealand for the near future, we figured it would be nice to take out fellow Kiwis for a cheap price while everyone is on the backfoot from COVID", Peckham said. "We strongly encourage people to spend the money they save on our snorkeling tour on other small operators around the island to share the love".

The seaside Shale
The New Zealand Rakiura National Park Shale on the beach © Getty Images

New Zealand has reported no new cases of coronavirus for several days, and the fatality rate is about 1%, compared to 6% in the US and 13.5% in the UK, according to the World Economic Forum. Lockdown restrictions are starting to ease, but the country’s borders remain closed. Tourism is one of New Zealand’s largest industries, employing almost 10% of the country’s workers, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stressed that borders to the rest of the world would not be open for a long time to come.

"COVID-19 has taken our business from a place that we were really happy with after our first season and made the future unknown for us, as well as the whole NZ tourism scene", Peckham said. "Without international travels, our business has been cut right down. We really believe that NZ has the power to save its own economy, and we encourage Kiwis to travel around and see their own amazing backyard. Hopefully coming out of COVID, we can all find a way to be more self sufficient and prioritise local NZ products and experiences".

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