By Guy Dundas
Tourism New Zealand’s new boss used the annual tradeshow TRENZ to confirm the organisation’s tourism growth strategy for the next four years, with an increased effort to drive visitor dispersal to regional areas and into shoulder travel seasons. Stephen England-Hall, a fresh face to the tourism industry, took up the position of chief executive at TNZ in early April and said now is an opportune time for New Zealand to focus on growth, to be achieved by “working more closely with government and industry to improve the visitor experience by bringing our deep knowledge of the visitor and marketing insight to life for the NZ industry”.
Speaking with travelBulletin at TRENZ, held at The Cloud in Auckland early last month, England-Hall said there were near-term opportunities for mature and established markets like Australia and the UK, and high growth markets such as China and Indonesia.
He said protecting, sustaining and improving the New Zealand experience was key. “The very best way to ensure that Kiwis advocate for tourism is to get smarter about matching supply and demand, understanding how we need to evolve and continuing to embrace the cultures that visit us, and providing relevant visitor insight to industry and the communities in which we engage,” he said.
Last year, Tourism New Zealand took over the national quality assurance organisation Qualmark for NZ-based attractions & leisure activities. It’s redevelopment over the past several months is seen by England-Hall as a way to “protect what makes New Zealand tourism distinctive and unique”.
Renewed ties with Air New Zealand
Keen to build on its successful five-year relationship with Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand inked a fresh Memorandum of Understanding to inject an additional NZ$10 million each this year into its marketing alliance, taking the total joint investment to NZ$100 million to date. Air New Zealand chief Christopher Luxon (pictured below) told travelBulletin the partnership was an efficient way of doing business in offshore markets.
Luxon said working ‘hand-in-glove’ with TNZ provided greater synergies and “much more impact if we can do things together rather than cross purposes”.
The Air New Zealand boss also reiterated the carrier was assessing multiple potential new routes within the Pacific Rim, in the Americas (specifically the US east coast and mid-west) and Asia – the latter offering “huge opportunities for us”.
Luxon commented that while tourism growth has been good for NZ, there were still billions of dollars in increased productivity that can be tapped into for the sector. He said when New Zealand’s tourism industry is benchmarked against other developed countries, it sits about mid-table in terms of productivity. “If we can get to the top 10%, there’s another nine billion dollars, and that really comes from us thinking about how we can create more higher premium value visitor experiences.”
Common border one-sided
The continued push for a common border between Australia and New Zealand was raised as a bone of contention by Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s chief executive Chris Roberts at TRENZ. Roberts fired up the debate for the often talked about, yet-to-be fully supported initiative between transTasman neighbours, saying the ball remained in Australia’s court to fully back the “one visa” strategy.
“We had one visa during the Cricket World Cup…[but] that was essentially not a true one visa. It was New Zealand accepting the Australian visa,” Roberts explained to travelBulletin. During the Cricket World Cup jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2015, the only real beneficiaries of the common border made available over the six-week tournament were travellers from China. “They didn’t actually come for the cricket. They just used the visa that was available. But there were no issues, no problems caused during that period.”
“If you turned up in New Zealand and you had an Australian visa in your passport, we let you in. But it didn’t work the other way. And Australia is still saying it’s not prepared to do that,” Roberts said.
He slammed Australia for making “lots of excuses”, preventing the one visa adoption between the countries. “We have to accept that it is not the way Australia wants to go, so the alternative really at the moment is to make travel between the two countries basically a domestic-like experience.”