NZ voted the land of lurve
10 October 2006

New Zealand could soon be known as the land of love, rather than the land of the long white cloud, thanks to an American television show. An estimated 5.5 million viewers of the USA Today Show have voted New Zealand the dream honeymoon destination in its annual "Today Throws a Wedding" competition.

The show asks viewers to vote for every aspect of a wedding, from the rings and hairstyles to the honeymoon destination.

The competition winners, newlyweds Molly and Jason Waggoner from Playa del Rey in California, were married on live television and arrived in Auckland yesterday for their seven-day honeymoon.

The couple said they were delighted that New Zealand had been chosen as their destination. They had been hoping it would be either New Zealand or Africa because they were "looking for adventure".

They were to fly from Auckland to spend their first night at the Kauri Cliffs Lodge in the Bay of Islands. From there they will fly to Whare Kea Lodge in Wanaka and then on to Eichardt's boutique hotel in Queenstown. With activities such as picnics on private beaches and helicopter trips to the South Island glaciers, the luxury trip is worth about $120,000.

Sam Porter, from Seasonz, which organised the trip, said the company was arranging more honeymoons each year, including honeymoons for celebrities. Its most expensive, at $800,000, was for a New York business couple.

New Zealand was increasingly attractive for honeymooners because it was safe, romantic and offered plenty of adventure tourism activities, he said. New Zealand has also been named as the top long-haul travel destination in the British Guardian, Observer and Guardian Unlimited Travel Awards.

About 15,000 people are thought to have voted in the awards, which ranked New Zealand above Australia, Japan and The Maldives.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said such a high-profile win was worth millions of dollars for New Zealand. "We are continually challenged with how to keep up our profile ? recognition like this is something we just couldn't pay for."

Last month, New Zealand was voted the world's coolest travel destination, according to British fashion police Superbrands' CoolBrands. New Zealand edged out Morocco and Fiji for the top spot, leaving Australia wallowing in fifth place.

- The Dominion Post