When Fergus Brown, Chief Executive of Holiday Parks Association, New Zealand (HAPNZ) first entered the sector, back in 1976, the New Zealand tourism industry was in its infancy.
“The government was a major player in the commercial scene, owning hotels, railways, coach lines, the airline and travel agencies along with its research and marketing functions,” he said.
“It was clear to me that working in the industry would provide a range of employment opportunities both in New Zealand and overseas. I was keen to work in an industry where you could engage with people, and travel globally.”
Fergus’s love for holiday parks goes back to his childhood. Like many New Zealanders, he enjoyed long summer holidays in parks around the country.
“During my time at Tourism New Zealand, we marketed FIT holidays travelling by motorhome and rental cars while staying in holiday parks. Owning and operating a motor lodge widened my experience in the accommodation sector giving me invaluable ‘hands-on’ experience.”
Fergus started with the Government Tourist Bureau in 1976 and spent four years in its Sydney office before moving to Dunedin, where he was a regional liaison officer in the early stages of regional tourism.
“I moved to Wellington and spent two years as private secretary to the Minister of Tourism before being transferred to Asia where I spent six years working out of Singapore and Hong Kong.
“I moved back to Wellington before purchasing the Masterton Motor Lodge. I joined HAPNZ in 2003.”
As CEO of the leading association for holiday parks, Fergus helped steer its members through the pandemic. He says it was an “extremely challenging period” but also “very rewarding”.
“I realised very early on that if I was having trouble sourcing and understanding accurate official advice then my members would be finding it even harder,” he said.
Fergus enjoys working with people and always strives to “develop strong genuine relationships that provide long-term mutual benefits”. During COVID those solid relationships were constructive.
“We found that it was important for the wider accommodation sector to work together to ensure that we were sourcing the correct information and that it was workable for our members. There was a strong collegial spirit among the leaders of the accommodation sectors, and I believe that we did a great job in guiding and assisting our respective members through some very trying times.”
Despite challenges, Fergus says New Zealand’s holiday park sector has “performed well right through the COVID period and has benefited from having a strong domestic base which represents 65 percent of our guest nights”.
“Back in 2002 the holiday park sector welcomed 5.8 million guest nights. This grew to 8.5 million in 2019 and 9.1 million in 2023.”
Over the past few years, significant adverse weather events wreaked havoc across the country. Fergus pointed out, “climate change is an enormous risk to holiday parks throughout the country”.
“Just last summer, we saw major weather events affect road access to many areas. We need to work with our members to ensure they can adapt to the challenges that climate change brings.”
Fergus remains positive about the sector’s future.
“Holiday Parks offer a low-impact holiday option for both Kiwis and international visitors. I am confident that we will continue to see our domestic market grow and that increasing international visitors will want to enjoy the Kiwi experience that holiday parks provide.”
Sharing his wisdom and encouraging emerging leaders to embrace the industry Fergus said: “Take the many opportunities that will arise and don’t be reluctant to move around the country or world to further your career.”
Mandy has over 17 years of accommodation and tourism industry writing experience and is Editor of AccomNews & Resort News, Publisher of SchoolNews & Director of Multimedia Pty Ltd. She is a retired registered nurse with a 25-year NHS career that followed a few unforgettable years in hotel housekeeping.