Hahei Beach on the Coromandel is one of New Zealand’s most popular resorts. Photo / Alan Gibson.
Elisabeth Easther chats with Maria Madill, marketing manager for some of New Zealand’s most popular resorts.
Maria Madill has worked in finance, advertising and, more recently, catering. When offered a marketing role supporting three family resorts in Hahei, Raglan and Wānaka, despite it being the early days of Covid, she jumped at the chance.
Playing a role in tourism just as Covid was spreading around the world, was that daunting?
I was trying to avoid non-profit burnout. I had given my life to the food rescue cause, so when Covid hit I was taking a break. Then quite out of the blue, through a friend of a friend, I was told about this marketing role for a tourism business. It sounded good, and I started working for these guys in April 2020, and I love it.
What does your role consist of?
My official title is Marketing Manager and I work in three beautiful destinations. Hahei Beach Resort, Raglan Sunset Motel and Mt Aspiring Holiday Park in Wānaka.
How hard was it to start a new job during lockdown?
After this first confinement, I went to Hahei to meet my colleagues for the first time in real life. The drive to Coromandel was heavenly, then arriving at the resort and seeing Hahei beach was like coming home to mother nature. In fact, it was so upsetting that I burst into tears.
You never had tourism on your CV before 2020, what did you do before?
I am from Te Awamutu. I grew up on a farm and went to school in Hamilton. After sixth grade, I went to Germany on a Rotary exchange, which really opened my 17-year-old’s eyes to the world.
These exchanges can go both ways, how did it go for you?
I liked it. Although I left New Zealand in 20 degree sunshine and arrived in Germany at 14 minus. I had never walked on snow before but had to cycle to the school in the snow. I barely spoke German either, but I had three amazing families and we’re still close over 30 years later.
What did you do when you returned to New Zealand?
I went to the University of Waikato and studied International Marketing and German, then pursued my OE, in London and Dubai. My first job was in a Japanese bank; I didn’t like finance, but that led me to a position in an advertising agency with the Wools of New Zealand account. One campaign, we had Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen lying on New Zealand rugs. I also worked in the Middle East, marketing Durex condoms and Kellogg’s cornflakes.
What brought you home?
I always knew I would come home. Luckily my husband – he is Irish – was also happy to come. I grew up with this “don’t leave town until you see the country” campaign and after spending so much time abroad I knew how lucky I was to call New Zealand at home.
Was it easy to find the type of work you wanted?
I moved into branding and then took a break to have kids before starting a non-profit organization called KiwiHarvest in Auckland. We have saved more than ten million kilograms of food, both averting the environmental disaster of waste, while helping people who go without.
From sustainability to hospitality, what do the resorts you sell look like?
The owners are a group of Kiwi families who love to vacation with their friends in amazing places. Their mission is to keep these beautiful places accessible to Kiwi families. Especially Hahei, which opened in 1958 and has a strong heritage of cross-generational family camping.
How often do you visit these amazing places?
Fairly regularly. Last summer, I even worked the front desk in Hahei, where the first thing people do when they arrive is tell you how many years they’ve been camping there. I was also lucky, because my children, Molly (18) and Hugo (16) were able to work there too and we were together in a tent, fifty meters from the beach. At lunchtime, we would run and swim. It was amazing.
How did businesses stay afloat during Covid?
Level four was horrible. The first thing we did was to protect the staff, as many of them live on site. Then we dealt with cancellations, which was soul destroying. Later, when restrictions eased, we refocused on the domestic market, emphasizing that every destination is amazing all year round, not just during peak season.
When did things pick up speed?
Once people were able to travel again, that first summer was huge. It was also very moving. Campers would arrive and burst into tears because they were so happy to be back.
How is the future?
We look forward to sharing good times with our guests. We have these world-class experiences here in New Zealand and they don’t have to cost a fortune, whether you’re in a villa or a tent in Hahei, everyone is within walking distance of the beach. And it’s one of the few places where you’ll see great-grandparents and great-grandchildren relaxing in the same place.
What do you like most about your job?
I work with great people and help visitors experience the best of Hahei, Raglan and Wānaka. I also like the fact that the owners are determined to keep traditional camping alive by making these beautiful destinations accessible to everyone.
For more travel inspiration, head over to newzealand.com/nz.
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