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Burton To Foreign Correspondents’ Lunch, Sydney

Hon. Mark Burton
25 July 2003 Speech
Foreign Correspondents’ Lunch, Sydney

Good afternoon, and welcome to you all. I’m delighted to see so many of you are interested in hearing about tourism in and to New Zealand.

Australia/New Zealand Relationship

Australians and Kiwis have a very close relationship—although sometimes it seems we are only interested in beating each other on the sports field.

But despite the rivalry that our two countries are famed for, tourism is one of the many things we have in common.

After all, Australia and New Zealand have long represented each other’s largest source market for visitors.

In fact, New Zealand has been Australia’s favourite international destination for more than 20 years, and Kiwis have always chosen Australia first for their international travel.

Australian tourists represent 30% of all inbound arrivals in New Zealand, equating to around 630,000 people annually. Of these, 240,000 are holidaymakers and another 220,000 represent travellers who are visiting friends and family.

And currently, around 18% of all travellers departing Australia visit New Zealand.

In today’s market, it makes good sense for our two countries to work closely together to maximise the benefits for the whole region.

This was brought home to both our governments in the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Since then, the tourism industry in New Zealand and Australia—indeed, the industry worldwide—has been faced with a daunting environment.

Added to this was last year’s bombing in Bali, where the spectre of terrorism came to our own back yard, this year’s Iraqi war, and the impacts of the SARS virus.

New Zealand’s tourism sector has certainly felt the impacts of all these events, but we are now seeing a trend back towards positive growth. Indeed, only recently your own Federal Minister for Tourism (Joe Hockey) publicly praised the strength of both our tourism market as a whole and the success of our 100% Pure New Zealand campaign—the “best in the world,” according to him. We appreciated the compliment.

Which brings up a very pertinent question to both our countries: in a world of virtually unlimited choice, how do countries at the bottom of the world make themselves stand out?

Marketing New Zealand to the world

Not long ago, I was interviewed by a Swiss journalist who wanted to know just what was behind New Zealand’s recent success in the global tourism market.

She felt that while 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, unfortunately, the America’s Cup—New Zealand has been extraordinarily successful in promoting itself in ways her country had not.

Her question to me, and I am quoting her directly, was “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. Our extraordinary landscape offers travellers immense diversity and scenic beauty within a small geographical area—especially when compared to Australia.

New Zealand is the size of California and only slightly bigger than the UK, but visitors can experience glaciers, volcanoes, subtropical forests, beaches, and lush green plains—alll with only a few days’ driving. We have 18,000 kilometres of beautiful coastline, and at no time are you any more than three hours drive from the sea.

The pioneering spirit that we share with Australians also saw our country go on to invent or popularise some of today’s most enduring tourism symbols—jet boating, bungy jumping and the skiplane, to name but a few.

Obviously proximity has a large part to play in attracting Australians to our country, but New Zealand has much to offer Australian visitors. Our dramatic landscape has been the major drawcard to New Zealand ever since tourists began to arrive.

These same features lure Australians across the Tasman. Our geothermal attractions and Maori cultural activities are two of the top ten activities for Australians in New Zealand. Our mountain ranges attract over 100,000 Australian skiers and snowboarders every year.

Building a profile as a sophisticated destination

But New Zealand offers its guests so much more. Increasingly, our unique landscape is serving as the backdrop for New Zealand’s many other attractions.

We have a population of people who are by their very nature friendly, easy-going, hospitable, and fiercely proud of their country.

Tourism New Zealand has developed a profile of our ideal visitor—an interactive traveller who belongs to the high-yield, upper end of the global tourism market—affluent, independent, and adventurous. In other words, we are targeting guests who want to get off the beaten track and have a unique, varied, New Zealand experience.

Through this work, we are building 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.

Media exposure/Film

New Zealand is “on-trend” as a destination. Much of Tourism New Zealand’s promotional effort has been enhanced by the unprecedented media coverage we have received over the past year—the year the media seemed to “discover” New Zealand.

In 2002, we enjoyed excellent exposure through such diverse media as:

The Discovery Channel’s Royal Tour
The Amazing Race
National Geographic Today
The Food Network
The Today Show
The CBS Early Show
And numerous magazine and newspaper articles or features.

And it would be impossible to overstate the importance of film in building the high worldwide media profile that New Zealand is currently enjoying.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy continues to take the world by storm and receive box office, media and critical acclaim.

The Two Towers is still 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, combined with 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.

New Zealand has reaped the benefits of Peter Jackson’s visionary LOTR project. These films have shown the world that New Zealand is not only the most beautiful country in the world—it’s one of the most creative as well. (And Weta Workshop has the Oscars to prove it!)

And, the LOTR actors have become some of New Zealand’s most enthusiastic ambassadors, never failing to mention what a superb time they all had while on location in our country.

If the triumph of New Zealand’s natural environments was no surprise, it was the stars – the actors – through their unanticipated and unrestrained enthusiasm about the experience of sharing the real New Zealand, with New Zealanders, that really revealed the secret of our success.

As a result of LOTR, millions of people around the world know where we are, and who we are, and want to come and meet New Zealanders and see “Middle Earth” for themselves.

Of course, LOTR is not the first New Zealand film to make a mark on the world film scene. Previous successes have included critically acclaimed films such as The Piano, Once Were Warriors, and Peter Jackson’s earlier film, Heavenly Creatures.

And most recently, Whale Rider has become the latest film to carry on this tradition of excellence. Niki Caro’s moving story of a young girl’s struggle to make a place for herself in a male-dominated world, overcome the rejection of her grandfather, and ultimately win his respect, is finding critical and financial success around the world.

Whale Rider, with its unique combination of New Zealand’s scenic beauty and a rich tale of our people, culture and legends, will continue to increase the profile of New Zealand internationally and help develop a better understanding of New Zealand as a tourist destination.

But film is not the only way to showcase New Zealand’s creativity, innovation and unique cultural base. Tourism New Zealand is also working to promote other New Zealand cultural events internationally, including:

World of Wearable Arts
The Wild Food Festival
The International Festival of the Arts
Pacifica
Masterclass Wine and Food
L’Oreal New Zealand Fashion week.


Sustainability

Building a strong, sustainable tourism sector that will both benefit all New Zealanders as well as care, protect, and, wherever possible, enhance our unique environments is dependent upon a fundamentally strong industry—an industry with a commitment to quality, a vision for the future, and a thorough understanding of who its customers are.

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 people, land, and values that are New Zealand.

To this end, in 2001, this government, in partnership with key industry representatives, formulated the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010—a ten-year plan for developing a truly sustainable tourism sector. In June, we released an update of the Strategy, detailing how far we’ve come in the past two years.

Prior to the development of the Strategy, tourism in the decade to 2000 had experienced positive growth—growth which informed the need for an appropriate plan for the future. This trend has continued, with international visitor arrivals increasing by an impressive seven percent in 2002—growth of more than double the global average.

Even more impressive is the record spend of $6.14 billion by our international visitors for the year to December 2002—a 17.3 percent increase over the previous year. When coupled with an average increase of two days in length of stay, we are seeing real progress towards our goal of visitors who spend more, stay longer, and visit a wide range of places.

Sector commitment and partnerships with government

Across the sector, ongoing initiatives are demonstrating a real commitment to providing a world-class tourism product, and we are seeing real progress throughout the industry only two years down the track.

But there is absolutely no room for complacency in our tourism sector. While figures show that New Zealand has not escaped the challenges of SARS and the war in Iraq completely unscathed, the impact thus far has thankfully been relatively modest. Recent experience also indicates that New Zealand, in comparison with other destinations, tends to recover well from such challenges.

I believe that both the recovery and the ongoing success of the tourism sector will stem directly from the strong partnerships our government continues to foster with key sector stakeholders.

Building an ever more professional, high-quality tourism industry requires that same level of commitment from the entire tourism sector—and we are seeing that commitment.

Industry leaders such as the Tourism Industry Association are working to see quality and sustainability become the norm throughout the tourism industry.

New Zealand’s Qualmark brand—a nationwide, standardised quality assurance system—was developed to provide our guests with a reliable, easily recognised mark of quality. Last year, the government provided $2.5 million over two and a half years, to significantly expand the system.

Qualmark now includes accommodation, retail, 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.

The Qualmark system is an illustration of New Zealand’s focus on putting quality at the heart of the tourism industry. Quite simply, our aim is that every visitor receives a world-class experience—in their accommodation, their food, the activities they choose and the environments they visit.

The New Zealand Government continues to work with the industry. Following the 2001 release of Strategy 2010, we established a new multi-million dollar implementation fund. This year’s budget allocated more than $21 million of new funding over the next three years, to be directed towards improving our policy and research capabilities, and towards significantly boosting our marketing efforts in the key USA market.
We have this week granted funding of nearly $1 million to five regions, to support development of cultural tourism—an area identified as a strong driver of tourism, both domestic and international.
Developing a strong cultural tourism market, which includes such areas as Maori cultural experiences, performing and visual arts, museums, festivals, and historical sites, is of particular of interest to those “interactive travellers” who are looking for a “real” New Zealand experience. It helps people and communities to tell their stories, both to people in their region and to guests from outside it.

Conclusion

New Zealand has long been aware of the benefits tourism can bring. We were the first country in the world to set up a National Tourism Organisation—the first government to officially recognise the importance of the industry. The recently released Provisional Tourism Satellite Account 2000 – 2002 underscored the huge contribution tourism makes to the New Zealand economy. Accounting for close to 1 in 11 jobs, and 9% of our GDP, tourism is now second only to Dairy, generating more than 14% of New Zealand’s total export earnings.

But for New Zealand to realise the full potential of this thriving market, I stress again that it is essential for the entire sector to work together to achieve the right balance between industry growth and protecting our unique environments. We are committed to harnessing the benefits of a sustainable tourism industry to enhance the communities and cultures of New Zealand who host and supply the services to our guests.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SOUND OFF]

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. We can never afford to become complacent, because there will always be ways to improve this vital sector.
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.

[LIFT SOUND, PLAY VIDEO TO CONCLUSION]

ENDS

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