Bollywood star Sidharth Malhotra, appointed New Zealand’s tourism ambassador for India, spent his weekend in Northland experiencing some of the best the region has to offer before returning home on Monday.
An avid adventurer and explorer the former model turned actor body-boarded the exciting sand dunes at Te Paki Recreation Reserve, learned to do the haka at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, visited Cape Reinga and Tane Mahuta in Waipoua forest, dived at the Poor Knights Reserve and cooked seafood at his Bay of Islands lodgings at Eagles Nest in Russell.
He was delighted to learn the Haka having tweeted “good luck to NZ for today’s match v France” ahead of their World Cup quarterfinal.
“I have seen the Haka before during the All Blacks Rugby matches. It gives strength and power to the players before their games. It is highly inspiring and I am glad I got to try my hands at it,” Sidharth said.
He was also moved by his visit to Tane Mahuta and the gift given him by Waipoua footprints.
“As soon as you set foot in the forest you know that you are in a special place with a lot of history and culture,” Sidharth said.
“To top it all, the pounamu given to me is absolutely beautiful. I know how much this stone means to the Māori people, I will treasure and cherish it forever.”
He was given the hand-carved pounamu piece crafted by Lewis Gardiner who is regarded as one of the most innovative and respected Māori pounamu artists of his generation. Sidharth received a Toki
– Adze style pounamu which symbolizes prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power and charisma. It was where he also experienced his first official Hongi (traditional greeting).
Northland Inc general manager regional promotions Paul Davis said it pleasing that the superstar, whose latest movie “Brothers” released last month took $87 million in its first week at the Box-office, had chosen to experience what Northland tourism had to offer.
“We are happy that Northland was chosen alongside Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown as a destination for him to visit given that he was here shooting promotional materials of New Zealand for Tourism New Zealand’s Indian PR and marketing campaign,” Mr Davis says.
“The Indian market is small, but a growing market for Northland at the higher-end with emphasis being put on the honeymoon and family group sectors.”
Tourism New Zealand figures show that the number of people visiting New Zealand from India is growing steadily with numbers up 24.9 per cent to 43,329 for the year ending August.
Indian visitors tend to travel from October to March with family arrivals peaking from April to June, making that market attractive to the New Zealand tourism industry as it helps to offset seasonality issues by encouraging visitors in the shoulder and off seasons.
On his visit here from October 11-19 Sidharth regularly shared his experiences daily with his 4.3 million social media followers of which 2.4 million are on Twitter.
Apart from sharing his visit here to encourage tourism in India he will also deliver messages to Indian drivers about how to drive safely when visiting New Zealand.