Building cultural competency

Guests dining at Fleur's in Moeraki with Fleur standing at their table.

Photo: Camilla Rutherford


Build the cultural competency of the tourism workforce to better represent Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich history and culture.

Creating a future where... Build the cultural competency of the tourism workforce and businesses to enable the tourism workforce to better represent Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich culture, ensuring all tourism operators positively contribute to their community.


Building the cultural competency of the tourism workforce is necessary to appropriately represent Aotearoa New Zealand’s culture and to attract employees who feel a connection with the cultural aspects of their work.

Many tourism operators incorporate Te Ao Māori in their offering. This is generally done with good will and positive intent but there are cases of sharing stories and history without consideration or acknowledgement of their cultural significance.

The New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce identified the importance of increasing unity and understanding between people and cultures and celebrating our diverse heritage and multicultural communities [1].


This Tirohanga Hou initiates a programme to help the industry become more authentic at story telling of Māori and non-Māori history in Aotearoa. Increased knowledge and understanding of histories will help to provide meaningful work through providing a connection for employees with history and whenua, and further enrich the tourism experience for business operators and visitors.

There is a wealth of cultural capability within the tourism industry, particularly in many Māori-owned and -operated tourism businesses. However, expertise and understanding across the broader tourism industry is variable. The same can be said of the knowledge of, and telling of, non-Māori history.

There is an opportunity to upskill tourism operators in their understanding and application of Te Ao Māori, tikanga, Te Reo Māori, the history of the land they operate on (and the responsibilities which come with this), and the local hapū and iwi history.

Non- Māori histories outside of museums and education institutions can also be inconsistent and this is a significant opportunity for the tourism industry to build its cultural capability. 

This Tirohanga Hou will build a programme of work to drive improvement in cultural competency and consider:

  • Agreeing key core cultural competencies for tourism operators
  • Measuring performance and progress in cultural competency
  • Avoiding ‘tick a box’ compliance
  • Encouraging an ongoing conversation and evolving standards and practice
  • Celebrating best practice of tourism operators celebrating Aotearoa New Zealand culture
  • Identifying and empowering regional “champions”, both Māori and non-Māori operators, to demonstrate the benefits and share experiences of building cultural competency

In 2019 the Government announced that pre- and post-colonial history, likely including the arrival of Māori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi, colonisation, and the New Zealand Wars, would be introduced to schools and kura, with implementation in 2023 [2]. This will provide an important foundation for people working in the tourism industry in the future.

Understanding and embracing our own culture will enable the tourism industry to engage with, and provide culturally appropriate experiences for, our domestic and international visitors.


1. The Tourism Futures Taskforce (2020, December), The Tourism Futures Taskforce Interim Report: December 2020, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment,, at page 36.

2. Beehive (2019, September). NZ history to be taught in all schools.