Why Marlborough is being recognised internationally as one of Earth's most welcoming regions

View overlooking trees along the Awatere River towards mountains of the Inland Kaikoura Range, Muller Station, near Molesworth Station, southwest of Blenheim.
View overlooking trees along the Awatere River towards mountains of the Inland Kaikoura Range, Muller Station, near Molesworth Station, southwest of Blenheim. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Marlborough District has been recognised as the sixth most welcoming region in the world in Booking.com's 2023 Traveller Review Awards.

La Rioja in Spain won number one most welcoming region on Earth, with Greece's Epirus, the UK's County Down, Austria's Oberosterreich and Romania's Mures rounding out the top five.

The South Island district is the only southern hemisphere destination to make the list.

Destination Marlborough general manager Bruce Moffat said locals are famously friendly and helpful, but acknowledged the world famous Sauvignon Blanc helps.

"Everywhere you turn there's someone willing to go out of their way to lend a hand," Moffat told Newshub.

"Whether it's offering a bed in their homes to visitors displaced from ferry cancellations, looking after a neighbour's property, or coming together in times of devastation and hardships from atmospheric rivers falling from the sky. 

"No matter what, there's never a frown. I mean who wouldn't be happy to live in arguably Aotearoa New Zealand's best kept secret? Typically, the copious amount of wine helps a bit too, haha!"

Marlborough is renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc.
Marlborough is renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc. Photo credit: Getty Images

The 2023 Traveller Review Awards are based on a pool of over 240 million verified customer reviews on Booking.com with 1.36 million accommodation partners, 230 car rental providers and 58 airport taxi suppliers receiving an award in 2023. Of these, 7307 are from Aotearoa.

No New Zealand city won a place on the accompanying most welcoming cities list, on which Italy's Polignano a Mare earned the number one spot. 

Marlborough's Picton did earn a spot on the 2023 Most Welcoming Towns in New Zealand list, however, which Lake Tekapo topped.

Moffat said tourist operators in the region "could not be more chuffed" to represent not only New Zealand but the southern hemisphere on the regions list.

"I am not going to lie: this was and sometimes is still a shock for locals to hear. Not in a conceited or pretentious way, in fact it's the opposite. It's humbling and grounding to have such a title," he said.

"Marlborough is a very special place with some incredibly talented and driven locals. Our collective passion for the region is rubbing off on the visitors, and our little secret might not be much of a secret for much longer."

Kenepuru Sound in the Marlborough Sounds.
Kenepuru Sound in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo credit: Getty Images

Although the region has famously good summers, a lot of marine life migrates to the Sounds in the cooler months which means whales, dolphins and other sea life are easily spotted. 

All year round there are other attractions including the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where Sir Peter Jackson houses a lot of his personal collection of WWI and WWII airplanes and memorabilia.

Moffat said international visitors may be attracted by the wine and natural wonders of the area, but it's the local people that really impresses them.

"Foreign tourists are often wowed by the sheer beauty of the Marlborough Sounds and confessing their love for Sauvignon Blanc," said Moffat.

"Visitors constantly say how friendly and warm the locals are, and how they feel like they're a local while in the region. There's a lot of positive comments about the endless experiences that we've got on offer and how accessible they are.

"This is a direct reflection of our locals and how their passion steeps into the visitor's experience. Marlborough may be a small place but is bountiful in opportunity. Often, we hear visitors say, 'I could see myself living here in Marlborough'."

Early morning shot in a vineyard in Marlborough, South Island of New Zealand. Marlborough is a large wine producing region. Photos taken in autumn, after harvest.
One of the many vineyards in Marlborough. Photo credit: Getty Images

Booking.com's 2023 Traveller Review Awards results include the following:

Most Welcoming Regions on Earth

  1. La Rioja, Spain
  2. Epirus, Greece
  3. Oberosterreich, Austria
  4. County Down, UK
  5. Mures, Romania
  6. Marlborough, New Zealand
  7. Ninh Binh, Vietnam
  8. Limon, Costa Rica
  9. Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
  10. North Dakota, US.

Most Welcoming Cities On Earth

  1. Polignano a Mare, Italy
  2. Hualien City, Taiwan
  3. San Sebastián, Spain
  4. Dresden, Germany
  5. Klaipeda, Lithuania
  6. York, UK
  7. Ushuaia, Argentina
  8. Porto De Galinhas, Brazil
  9. Mexico City, Mexico
  10. Gold Coast, Australia.

Most Welcoming Towns in New Zealand

  1. Lake Tekapo
  2. Invercargill
  3. Hokitika
  4. Twizel
  5. Havelock North
  6. Picton
  7. Martinborough
  8. Kerikeri
  9. Oamaru
  10. Cambridge.