Waikite Valley Thermal Pools is becoming an even hotter central North Island destination. That’s largely thanks to positive word-of-mouth reviews, and a team making a bit of a splash with on-job tourism training.
A quick glance at TripAdvisor shows visitors bubbling over with praise, and it’s no surprise that the spa is awarded with coveted Qualmark accreditation.
The original Waikite pools were created over 40 years ago. Today’s modern spa, sensitively developed by owners Mark and Lisa Bowie to maximise its beautiful location, offers a uniquely New Zealand experience.
Secreted miles away from the main highway and far from the madding crowds, the steaming natural springs are set among a relaxing rural setting. A peaceful respite for small groups of travellers who seek out the attraction from around the country and the world, including visitors from the UK, Asia, France, Germany and the USA.
You could be forgiven for thinking this magical setting would be enough. But these days, visitors expect more.
As Tenille McLeod, the Spa’s Operations Manager, says, “Visitors, especially people coming here from overseas, expect really high standards of service.”
This means top-quality visitor experience all-round. Whether taking a dip in well-designed hot pools, camping, dining, or finding out about sightseeing spots in the region the whole package needs to be perfect.
Tenille has been at the spa for just over five years. On leaving school, she trained and worked as a chef, then decided to swap hospitality’s late-night shifts for mornings at the spa where she had the opportunity to develop a career in tourism.
In her current role, she manages a team of ten and believes in the importance of on-job training as the way to upskill staff, provide them with a sense of accomplishment and give the business a competitive edge.
That’s why, in 2017, Tenille and her team signed up to complete the New Zealand Certificate in Visitor Experience – Level 3. She and Lisa, the business owner completed assessor training so that they could guide the other staff through the programme on the job.
“We are qualmarked so we need to ensure high standards,” says Tenille. “You can have fifty great customers and then one not so good one, but you can’t take it personally. You just need to be on your toes all the time.”
“We wanted to give our people a qualification and open their eyes to today’s customers’ expectations. This programme gives you all the basic skills and knowledge you need to meet those expectations and gives the team confidence to review and change how they do some things.”
Five staff so far have successfully completed the training and gained a nationally recognised qualification.
Tenille, who has lived her whole life in the area, was inspired by the programme to develop an insider’s guide to other regional highlights, including great walks, wildlife, other thermal attractions and must-see cultural events and exhibitions for visitors.
“Our customers really value it. It’s great to be able give them recommendations for what to see and do that are based on our first-hand experience and knowledge of the region.”
A luxurious dip in a hot pool isn’t just for visitors – it’s also a great perk of the job for Tenille and her team.
“This is a great place to work. Especially on a rainy day in winter, the water is pretty inviting.”