Recently I indulged my eight year son with a short holiday down south, including a day on the slopes at the very scenic Remarkables range. He’s already a very competent skier and full of confidence after only one season. In contrast, I spent most of the day sitting on my backside wondering why snow-boards do not have brakes installed – design flaw no doubt. But my son’s lack of fear provided me with some insight into what a difference attitude makes.
The recession may have dulled most travelers’ enthusiasm for spending in the short term; but the southern lakes region actually managed a small increase in visitor overnights in the past year. The “world’s adventure capital” must be one of the few places in which commercial and residential real estate development continues unabated and there remains a steady stream of incoming buses, boats and aircraft overflowing with families and young backpackers. Sure there has been the odd mortgagee sale and some of the trendy apparel retailers were a obviously bit quiet. But the town retains an optimistic feel about it, even in the midst of winter.
My point is that attitude can take you long way. If other tiny Pacific Island nations can refuse to “participate” in the recession – why can’t we also? If positive-minded, friendly and engaging tourism industry employees and entrepreneurs can keep local economies ticking over – why can’t we apply this mindset to the whole country? And I don’t just mean tourism. Singapore has Biopolis, the U.S. has Silicon Valley and India has Bangalore. Regional resource advantage can be channelled by deliberate agglomeration, especially when there is sufficient access to capital and intellectual talent.
You can write good software code and draw up financial contracts just as easily from a villa overlooking beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you can from an office block in Palo Alto. So instead of polluting our landscape producing commodities that continually drop in price, we should be inviting entrepreneurs from offshore to base themselves here to create new enterprises and wealth whilst enjoying the scenery. The only crisis in well endowed New Zealand is one of lack of confidence.