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Burton Speech: Sir George Seymour College

Mark Burton Speech: Opening of Sir George Seymour College of Travel and Tourism—Dunedin campus

Raewyn Idoine (Company Founder), Bhavna Desai (CEO, Sir George Seymour Colleges), Jim Harland (CEO, Dunedin City Council), Kim Newman (Campus Manager)—welcome.

Good afternoon to you all. I am delighted to be here to open this, the fifth campus of the Sir George Seymour College of Tourism and Travel.

I am always delighted to see the private sector expanding our capability to deliver quality tourism.

You see, I believe that tourism is nothing less than New Zealand’s most exciting and potentially valuable industry.

[Of course, I could be biased…]

2002 was a watershed year for the tourism sector. New Zealand was showcased to a huge international audience in high-profile international publications, the Discovery Channel’s Royal Tour series, the America’s Cup, and the Lord of the Rings.

In the September 2002 International Visitors Survey, 88% of visitors said they would return to New Zealand for another visit. In December, the sector got an early Christmas present with the news that—for the very first time—2002 saw over two million visitors arrive in New Zealand.

And in early 2003, Lonely Planet named New Zealand as its top travel destination for the year.

But in order to keep this kind of momentum going, the sector must continue to focus on delivering a high-quality, world-class experience to each and every one of our guests—exceeding their expectations every single time.

To do this, the industry needs a commitment to quality that encompasses training our employees, developing our business practices, and delivering excellence in both our products and services.

Sir George Seymour College’s contribution to this goal is obvious. The people who work on the front line of the industry need training, skills, and a commitment to quality that shows through in their interactions with every customer.

The Sir George Seymour College has a history of providing exactly this kind of quality tourism education. Established over 11 years ago, it is recognised for its high level of training and an employment success rate of over 90% for its students. Graduates work in a wide range of areas of the airline, travel and tourism industries.

The college has been formally recognised by the tourism industry through a number of awards, including its accreditation with ‘The New Zealand Way Quality Education’ programme, and as a TVNZ Marketing Award winner.

In 2002, the College was the winner of the Marketing and Development Category and the Tourism Service Provider Category at New Zealand Tourism Awards.

New Zealand’s visitors care about quality, and we must aim to make every aspect of their experience 100% right. In a highly competitive market, you only get one chace to make a positive first impression.

If we fail to meet our visitors’ expectations, it may well affect their perception of New Zealand as a whole. This will almost certainly impact on their decision to return, as well as on the message that they communicate to their friends and family about New Zealand.

But I believe that the entire tourism sector is committed to building an ever more professional, high-quality tourism industry. A strong commitment to quality and sustainability is becoming the norm throughout the tourism industry.

Attention to education, quality management, strategic thinking, and strong public/private partnerships are leaving the industry best placed to confront the very real challenges it is facing, both in the short and long-term.

Two such challenges are currently dominating headlines the world over— the war in Iraq and the SARS virus. Both are of concern to tourism world-wide. Currently, anecdotal evidence suggests that some travellers are delaying their trips, changing destinations, or even cancelling travel altogether.

Indeed, our own industry research indicates that following last year’s record arrivals, New Zealand may see some softening in April and May visitor arrivals, especially from the Asian and European markets.

Overall, however, the impacts appear to be relatively small at this stage.

But while such events certainly have the capability to influence the market, it is simply too early to judge what, if any, long-term impacts they will have on tourism in New Zealand.

It is important for the government and the sector to keep working together to ensure that a consistent, calm assessment of the situation is communicated—just as we did in the period after both the events of September 11 and the 2002 terrorist attacks in Bali. By employing this approach, New Zealand’s tourism sector not only recovered relatively quickly, it gained a larger market share.

This in no way suggests that there is room for complacency or arrogance as we face the current situation. As always, the sector must continue to focus on prudent business practice and attention to quality coupled with swift, well-coordinated management response to rapidly changing events.

The government will continue to work with the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism New Zealand, TIANZ, and other industry representatives to monitor the situation and ensure that the industry is up to date as the situation develops.

The Ministry is also working with other key agencies to ensure that tourism interests are considered in the government’s ongoing reactions to SARS. The Ministry of Health website is an excellent resource for anyone in the industry, as is the Tourism Research Council New Zealand website.

To manage these short-term challenges, it is important that we have a fundamentally strong industry. An industry with a focus on quality. An industry with a vision of where it is going and who its customers are. Businesses that adhere to best practice in all aspects of their own operations. And an industry staffed by appropriately skilled, qualified and motivated people.

But the industry is also facing the long-term challenge of 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.

The Government is committed to achieving this goal. In 2000, we did something that no New Zealand government had ever done before. In partnership with key industry representatives, we formulated the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010—a ten-year plan for developing a truly sustainable tourism sector.

Quality, balance, and diversification—all were identified as being essential to sustainability. For while growth in visitor numbers is still one 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 36% between now and 2008, visitor yield is projected to grow by close to double that rate, or 72% in the 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.

Our challenge 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, innovation, originality, determination and unwavering commitment to quality that we have seen demonstrated time and again by such people as Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Richard Taylor, and the entire Weta Workshop team.

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 continue to look to the long term.

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 through hospitality to our guests, sharing an industry-wide 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. Those of you who are students at the College here in Dunedin have certainly chosen to pursue a career in a vibrant industry. Projections are that by 2010 there will be an additional 100,000 people employed in tourism. You have made an exciting and dynamic career choice.

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

I congratulate the Sir George Seymour College on the opening of their 5th campus and I extend my best wishes to those students who are embarking on their future careers here today.

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