19 August 2008

Lonely Planet guide causes small-town concern in NZ

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The release of the new 14th edition of the New Zealand Lonely Planet guide yesterday has caused concern in Wanganui, a historic river city located in the south west of New Zealand’s north island. According to Wanganui Chronicle, an excerpt from the latest guidebook from Lonely Planet has "sent ripples" through the town.

The Lonely Planet is a coveted guidebook designed to help independent travellers make smarter travel decisions as they trek around the world.  The travel-guide company prides itself on providing unbiased reviews of travel destinations, and in its 14th New Zealand edition remains full of praise for its natural surroundings, city-centres and country towns. 

"There are few countries on this lonely planet as diverse, unspoiled and utterly, utterly photogenic," writers commented in the guidebook, adding that New Zealand’s "outlandish scenery, fabulous festivals, superb food & wine, and magical outdoor experiences" make it a unique destination for international travellers.

The new guide even provides a “GreenDex” for people who visit New Zealand, which indexes listings in terms of sustainable approaches to tourism.  All eating, accommodation and tour choices have been evaluated in terms of how much they adhere to sustainable policies.

But, residents have voiced their concern that one particular sentence in the 10-page review of Wanganui will affect the town’s tourism, reports the Wanganui Chronicle: "But Wanganui isn't all peaches-and-cream, gang violence makes occasional headlines and you might notice the odd deal going down through a car window, but visitors needn't lose any sleep."  Residents feel the comment will reflect badly on their town, which doesn’t have a history of gangs causing problems with tourists. 

The rest of the review on Wanganui was glowing, and hinted at its sense of Huck Finn lifestyle.

"Ripe with outdoor opportunities, the splendorous Whanganui River Rd mimics the river's bows, while Wanganui itself, a 19th century river port, has aged gracefully, recently reinventing itself as a centre for New Zealand glass art…  Like any port there's an edgy transience to the town, as if it's not sure what will come up or down the river next."

A spokeswoman from Tourism New Zealand said, overall the review was positive for Wanganui and highlights it as a region for travellers who are seeking a different New Zealand experience.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.

Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.

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