The group, hosted by the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono, is made up of leading tourism entrepreneurs from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia and Malaysia.
That includes Tan Thi Su from Vietnam, who runs a social enterprise that supports ethnic minorities in the mountain town of Sapa; and Ammar Sharin from Malaysia, who specialises in halal travel.
“This group are doing some really exciting stuff in their home countries – everything from running eco-enterprises that pull up local people while preserving environment, to multi-sensory dining experiences in enormous, bustling cities,” says Foundation entrepreneurship director Adam McConnochie.
The delegation is part of the Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme, which supports emerging New Zealand entrepreneurs to build connections and facilitate business relationships in Asia and supports Asian entrepreneurs to build connections in New Zealand.
The programme, formally called the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative, is supported by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of the Government’s ASEAN Strategy.
Bringing the entrepreneurs to New Zealand for industry-specific programmes is a way of building connections with the Asia region, and a way to learn from each other, says McConnochie.
“We’ve got so much to learn from Asia. The scale and dynamic nature of the region means entrepreneurs are free to experiment and learn at pace. They’re also trendsetters in terms of what they’re doing around responsible tourism and unique experiences.
“Tourists’ demands and tastes are changing, and these entrepreneurs are ahead of the curve on it.”
New Zealand can share a thing or two as well though. The group will be travelling to Auckland, Rotorua and Christchurch to meet with a number of high-profile tourism operators to discuss best practice in the industry, trends and challenges.
“There will be some good connections made over the course of a week that will help people build their businesses down the track. We’ve been working with entrepreneurs since 2012 and we see it happen time and time again,” says McConnochie.
The delegation includes:
Achiraya (Achi) Tamparipattra, Thailand
Achi runs social enterprise Hivesters, which curates experiences for tourists that benefit locals. Their aim is to bring income to local communities and preserve cultures in Thailand.
Tan (Shu) Thi Su, Vietnam
Shu runs Sapa O’Chau Travel in Vietnam, and she is the first ethnic-minority (Hmong) tour operator with an international tour operator licence. Shu’s mission is to bring prosperity to her town (Sapa) and to ethnic minorities.
Arthur (JP) Alipio, Philippines
JP founded Cordillera Conservation Trust, which since 2006 has built forest nurseries in more than 100 primary schools in the mountain regions of the Philippines and created trail networks and events which bring income to remote communities while preserving the local ecosystems.
Sreat Mom Sophear, Cambodia
Sreat is the founder of leading Cambodian travel agency SOPHIYA Travel and Tours. She’s been described as one of the country’s leading female entrepreneurs and has been awarded the ASEAN Business Women Entrepreneur Award.
Ammar Sharin, Malaysia
Ammar is the founder of ARBA Travel and Tours, which specialises in halal travel, in particular in Kuala Lumpur and Seoul. Ammar and his partner were named in last year’s Forbes 30 under 30 (Asia).
Marinella (Nella) Lomotan, Philippines
Nella is the founder of social enterprise Eco Explorations, which aims to preserve the Philippines natural heritage and biodiversity. Their impact projects include renewable energy, clean water and wildlife conservation. Nella is also developing her first eco-lodge in El Nido.
Amornched (Taro) Jinda-Apiraksa, Thailand
Taro is the CEO and co-founder of TakeMeTour, the largest online marketplace for local tours in Thailand and Southeast Asia. TakeMeTour has 25,000 local experts on its website. Taro has previously worked for Google in Singapore, supporting small to medium businesses to grow their online presence.
Arvin Singh Randahwa, Malaysia
Arvin is the CEO of 2Spicy Entertainment, which runs some of the top tourism and dining attractions in Malaysia, such as Dinner in the Sky, Plane in the City, and Whimsy Dining.