When the COVID-19 pandemic threw its curveball early this year, the team at Waimangu Volcanic Valley managed to hit back – and send it out of the park. Their quick reactions resulted in creating new products in order to appeal more to Kiwis, and this fast thinking earned them the Build Back Better award at the recent Westpac Rotorua Business Awards.
This year the awards judging panel decided to view the annual awards through a different lens as they wanted to celebrate Rotorua’s resilience through the pandemic. The list of finalists, and eventually winners, highlights the sheer determination our community has when faced with such adverse challenges. And, as a region whose economy heavily relies on visitors (the tourism industry is Rotorua’s largest employer and highest contributor to Rotorua’s GDP), we were glad to see tourism operators among the winners.
Waimangu general manager David Blackmore said, “We were surprised and rapt to be nominated for the award alongside many hard-working local businesses across multiple industries. To win the award was a real thrill for our team.”
Like most businesses, David quickly recognised the impact the pandemic would have on Rotorua’s tourism industry, but more importantly, on his staff.
“Waimangu is what it is because of the people here. They’re passionate about this place, and it shows through everything they do.
“We came together to brainstorm about what we could do post-lockdown to appeal to the domestic visitor, and how we could work with our local community to be of value to them. We are very grateful to have been able to further the connection with our community. We don’t know when the borders will re-open so we knew we had to quickly and thoughtfully broaden our offerings.”
Ideas began flowing and soon a café/convenience store/gift shop concept was created. The new Waimangu Local Store & Café has made the volcanic valley even more of a destination for friends, family and anyone passing by.
The already amazing breakfast and lunch menu has been expanded. It’s a fantastic spot to meet friends for excellent coffee (served in an edible cup!) or lunch (hello, half-metre-long pizza!) with an incredible view of the volcanic valley below.
Fancy a night off from cooking? Homestyle family size precooked meals, including sides and desserts, are available for pre-order and pick up.
The convenience store is stocked with everything travellers will need to top up their campervan fridge and pantry, or stash in their backpacks, from Weet-Bix to Watties sauce, loads of staples and even pancake mix.
Passionate about supporting local, the shop is a great place to find New Zealand made products including gifts and clothing, specialty food, and Rotorua-made beer and wine.
As if Waimangu wasn’t beautiful enough, just this week the Outdoor Art Trail opened, featuring 11 works of art that share the Waimangu story in a new way. The exhibition is open through March 2021 and guests are invited to vote for their favourite, which will earn the winner a $1,500 cash prize.
Congratulations to the Waimangu team for their innovation and determination.