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PRINZ National Conference 2003 - Mark Burton Spch

Hon. Mark Burton
18 February 2003 Speech

Public Relations Institute of New Zealand National Conference 2003

PRINZ president Tim Marshall, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, delegates and guests.

Good morning, and welcome to you all, particularly our international guests from the Global Alliance. A special welcome to Dr Horta, Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

I am delighted to be here with you for the morning

This conference’s theme is “communication in a world without boundaries”—an appropriate theme indeed in today’s world.

All around us, traditional means of communicating with each other are changing. The Internet allows us access to a wealth of knowledge, ideas, products, and people—all at the touch of a few buttons.

The almost ubiquitous cell phone means that many of us are never out of touch (even when we might want to be!). And each day, we are asked to process almost incalculable amounts of information and bombarded by thousands upon thousands of images.

At the same time, boundaries between nations are also beginning to blur, as international travel becomes more and more convenient.

So in a world of virtually unlimited choice, how does a tiny country at the bottom of the world make itself stand out?

Recently, I was interviewed by a Swiss journalist who came to see me in my capacity as Minister of Tourism. She wanted to know just what was behind New Zealand’s apparent success in the global tourism market.

She felt that Switzerland had many of the same basic qualities as New Zealand—beautiful landscapes, a wide variety of different experiences within a relatively small area, good food and wine, and so on.

Yet, she felt that New Zealand has been extraordinarily successful in promoting itself.

To quote her, “Are you Kiwis just geniuses, or what?”

Now while there may be a generous measure of polite exaggeration in her compliments, it did make me reflect.

Just how did we become one of the hottest destinations in the world? How have we managed to be heard over all the clamour, by so many travellers from around the world? And how can we best manage this growth and make it work long-term for New Zealand?

There are a few answers that immediately spring to mind. We have some of the most spectacular and unique natural environments to be found on the planet. You can spend the morning skiing Mt Ruapehu and the afternoon water-skiing on Lake Taupo.

And we have a population of people who are by their very nature friendly, easy-going, hospitable, and proud of their country—one of the other things that journalist was most impressed with!

But I believe that these valuable natural attributes are beginning to serve as the backdrop for New Zealand’s many other attractions.

Through the dedicated work of Tourism New Zealand, we are starting to build a profile as a sophisticated destination, rich in opportunities for unique cultural and arts experiences—a country whose reputation for innovation, talent and creativity is growing by the day.

Tourism New Zealand is fine-tuning a profile of our ideal visitor—a traveller who belongs to the high-yield, upper end of the global tourism market—affluent, independent, and adventurous—a guest who wants to get off the beaten track and have a unique, varied, New Zealand experience.

And around the world, this market is starting to know who we are. We have lately been featured in such prestigious publications as Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, National Geographic Adventure, UK Tatler, and Wanderlust.

The Discovery Channel has recently screened The Royal Tour, a one-hour documentary that follows Prime Minister Helen Clark as she takes Emmy Award winning writer and producer Peter Greenberg through some of New Zealand’s most unique attractions.

It is estimated that this programme will be seen in millions of homes in the United States alone.

Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers is currently screening in theatres around the world, shot entirely on location in New Zealand and featuring some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in the world and some of the most cutting-edge, brilliant special effects ever created.

The first two films have already been seen by millions of people internationally—and in December, the third film will have its world premiere in Wellington.

Major events such as the America’s Cup have also turned the eyes of the world to New Zealand.

The 2000 America’s Cup defence brought NZ$640 million to our economy, and created the equivalent of almost 11,000 new full-time jobs.

This time around, we have 200 super-yachts in the Auckland harbour and hundreds of other visitors who have arrived by private jet and first class airline travel—visitors with the discretionary income to enjoy the very best New Zealand has to offer.

And last December, the industry received an early Christmas present with the news that we had hosted over two million tourists for the year—a new milestone in international arrivals.

All in all, the past twelve months have been filled with opportunities to showcase New Zealand to our ideal visitor. When you add it all together, perhaps it should have come as no surprise that international travel guidebook Lonely Planet chose New Zealand as 2003’s top travel destination—an accolade indeed.

But while 2002 was certainly an extraordinary year, our currently unprecedented tourism boom is due to more than just fortunate circumstances.
At the core of New Zealand’s thriving tourism market are strong partnerships, fostered over the past three years between the sector and the Government.

I know that each of you here today well understand the value of such partnerships. After all, your institute is commited to sharing ideas, promoting professionalism and best practice throughout your own industry—something which is best achieved through cross-sector communication with key industry stakeholders.

Building an ever more professional, high-quality tourism industry requires that same level of commitment from the entire tourism sector.
Industry leaders such as TIA are working to see a strong commitment to quality and sustainability become the norm throughout the tourism industry.

The Government is equally committed to this goal. In partnership with the tourism sector, we formulated the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010, a 10-year plan for the sector’s long-term future.

The main objective was to create a sustainable, yield-driven strategy—one that strikes a balance between managing the impacts of our growing tourism sector and maximising its obvious economic benefits.

If we get that balance right—and get it right we must—we can enhance both our visitors’ experience and New Zealanders’ quality of life.

In other words, we must ensure that whatever we do in the short term will guarantee the prosperity and growth of the industry in the long term, while still safeguarding the future of the environments and values that are New Zealand.

To achieve this, we must put quality at the heart of the tourism industry. We must ensure that every visitor receives a world-class experience—in their accommodation, their food, the activities they choose and the environments they visit.

Quality was outlined as a key factor to success in Strategy 2010, and as a direct response to this, the Government has significantly enhanced funding for the Qualmark brand.

Quite simply, Qualmark aims to provide our guests with a reliable, easily recognised, standardised quality assurance system. By using the Qualmark system to ensure that a high standard is maintained across all aspects of the tourism sector, visitors, businesses and the industry as a whole will all benefit.

The government is investing an additional $2.5 million in Qualmark over two and a half years, to significantly expand the grading system.
Qualmark will now include not only accommodation and tourism retail, but also adventure tourism, transport activities, eco-tourism, and attractions.

In addition, Qualmark will also provide a business certification process to encourage adoption of best business practice in the tourism sector.

Quality, balance, and diversification—all are essential to sustainability. For while growth in visitor numbers is still a significant measure of success, there are other critically important factors to consider in relation to the sector’s long-term future.

There are certainly signs that we are on the right path. Visitor yield is growing significantly faster than visitor numbers. Recent projections by the Tourism Research Council indicate that while international visitor arrivals will increase by an impressive 6% per year to 2008, visitor yield is projected to grow by close to double that rate, or 72% in that same period.

By 2008, this will translate to $9.7 billion added to the New Zealand economy.

Our challenge is to balance this kind of growth with care, protection and, wherever possible, enhancement of our natural and made environments.

It is to encourage all those who choose to travel throughout New Zealand—whether they are domestic visitors or international guests—to go beyond the boundaries of a traditional tourist experience and explore the extraordinary range of opportunities New Zealand has to offer.

We must effectively encourage them to visit at different times of the year, to try a greater number of products, to stay longer, to explore a wider range of locations, and, of course, to spend more.

To achieve this goal, the industry, the Government and the wider community must strive to find innovative solutions to issues of sustainablility.

The entire sector must demonstrate the flare, originality, determination and unwavering commitment to quality that drives the creative film projects and yachting campaigns of which we are all so proud.

Tourism already offers great economic benefits to New Zealand. In 2001, our international visitors spent an average of nearly $3500 per person—adding up to an injection of nearly $6 billion into the New Zealand economy.

When combined with domestic tourism returns of nearly $7 billion, tourism generates 10% of our GDP, is directly and indirectly responsible for one in ten jobs, supports over 15,000 businesses, and is one of our largest earners of foreign exchange.

But for New Zealand to realise the full potential of this market, we must work together to find the right balance between industry growth and protecting our unique environments, as well as the communities and cultures of New Zealand who host and supply the services to our guests.

We must continue to communicate our pride in New Zealand to all of our international guests. We must share a vision for the future that keeps excellence at the forefront.
Let me conclude by saying that New Zealand has staked out its place in the highly competitive international travel market. The goal now is to exceed the expectations of every single visitor to New Zealand. In a world of unlimited choice, we must make sure that our guests have a world-class experience—one that leaves them longing to return.
I see tourism as nothing less than New Zealand’s most exciting and potentially valuable industry. As we look forward, we face real challenges as well as enormous opportunities. However, we must meet these challenges head on—and we must make the right decisions.

Decisions about how we appropriately manage volumes of visitors to some of our key destinations. Decisions about how we resource the necessary infrastructure to support our industry. Decisions about how we build genuine, professional career structures for our young people.

We have the great good fortune of time enough to manage these challenges and our response to them, but the time to do it is now.

As Minister of Tourism, I am committed to continuing my working partnership with the sector to making appropriate choice for both the industry and New Zealand; and to realising the potential of and the inherent responsibilities in building a truly sustainable, high-quality tourism industry for New Zealand .

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of opening your conference. You have ahead of you a program of inspiring and outstanding speakers. I wish you well for a successful conference and an enjoyable time in the City of Sails, rightful home of the America’s Cup.

I now have pleasure in declaring the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand’s 2003 National Conference officially open.

ENDS

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