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Burton Speech: Tourism Bay of Plenty AGM

Mark Burton Speech: Tourism Bay of Plenty Annual General Meeting

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you this evening, here in the beautiful Bay of Plenty.

I'd like to acknowledge the positive support of the local authorities In Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty-critical to the partnership essential to building an effective Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO).

As leaders in New Zealand's tourism industry, I know you are well aware of the sector's vital contribution to our economy. The industry has been experiencing an unprecedented boom in recent years. In terms of export receipts, tourism now runs a close second to New Zealand's dairy industry.

Last year, over two million international visitors chose New Zealand as their destination-a milestone in the sector's history. Together, these guests contributed more than $6 billion to our economy.

All indicators show that our visitors are staying longer and spending more, with an average spend which has increased by 95% since 1997-impressive results from a small country that was virtually unknown in the market a decade ago.

New Zealand's international reputation has never been better- enhanced by the unprecedented media coverage we have been receiving since 2002-the year the media seemed to "discover" New Zealand. Most recently, the latest Time magazine has devoted 50 pages to New Zealand.

Films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Whale Rider have showcased New Zealand's spectacular landscapes and unique culture around the globe-a factor which simply cannot be overstated in terms of our current tourism profile.

Thankfully, too, the industry is showing strong signs of recovery from the impact of the war in Iraq and, more significantly, the outbreak of the SARS virus. But our rapid recovery is more than just luck-it is the result of cooperation and collaboration across the sector.

The Bay of Plenty is poised to capture its fair share of the benefits of regional tourism. Your tourism product is something to be very proud of.

With a real wealth of advantages-an abundance of outdoor activities, temperate climate, beautiful coastal landscapes, proximity to Auckland as an international gateway, and your location on the Pacific Coast Highway-your region is well named indeed. Truly, this area is a "Bay of Plenty."

Your visitor numbers are currently dominated by domestic tourism. However, notwithstanding the long term and continuing importance of domestic tourism, projections are for a significant increase in international visitors over the next few years.

Recent Tourism Research Council research indicates that you can expect a 55% growth in international visitor days to 2008, second only to the Auckland region. In terms of visitor expenditure, international tourists are expected to increase their spend by 85% in the same period. I am confident that with everything Tauranga, Mount Mauganu, and the wider region have to offer, you will be well placed to reap the rewards of this forecast growth.

New Zealand's "Ideal Visitor"

The work of Tourism Bay of Plenty will be instrumental in making these forecasts a reality. By working in partnership with key industry stakeholders to promote this region, you will help to ensure that your region benefits from these expected visitors.

But who to target? Tourism New Zealand has devoted considerable time and effort to answering this question and developed a profile of our ideal visitor. Called "interactive travellers," they belong to the high-yield, upper end of the global tourism market-relatively 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.

These travellers are drawn to our landscape and natural beauty, but are also attracted to our unique culture. They place a high value on interaction with our people and our environment. In short, they are after an 'authentic' New Zealand experience.

Interactive travellers are highly valuable to our tourism sector, not just because they spend significantly during their visit, but because they want to engage with our environments and enjoy New Zealand the way it really is. Interactive travellers are respectful of what draws them here-the unique qualities that make New Zealand such a special place."

The tourism product on offer here in the Bay of Plenty is an excellent match for these ideal visitors. I am delighted to know that Tourism Bay of Plenty has been working closely with Tourism New Zealand to promote the area in line with New Zealand's 100% Pure global marketing campaign-recently called the "best in the world" by Australian Tourism Minister Joe Hockey.

Your participation in USA and South East Asian trade shows your ongoing commitment to continuing to build the Bay of Plenty's reputation as an ideal destination for the sought-after interactive traveller.

The recent re-branding of the region and adoption of the slogan "Bay of Plenty - Ocean, Spirit, Earth" will also no doubt appeal to interactive travellers. All this work combines to help to further develop the Bay of Plenty's potential for international visitors.

The Importance of Local Government Support for RTOs

Of course, in order for you to translate ideas into concrete strategies for promoting your region, ongoing support from Local Government will be necessary. Both Local Government and Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) play a vital role in sector development. In addition to their role in promoting their region as a visitor destination, RTOs play a strong leadership role within the industry, acting as a bridge between tourism operators, national tourism bodies, and government.

If we are to achieve the kind of sustainable sector envisioned by the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010, we must ensure that destination management and marketing are aligned. Developing partnerships between the bodies that undertake these roles is extremely important.

The recently released local government tourism strategy, Postcards from Home, involved significant input from RTOs. It is also a clear illustration of the partnership that has developed between RTOs and Local Government in direct response to Strategy 2010.

Postcards from Home outlines four strategic aims: · The provision of infrastructure

· Engaging communities in planning

· Forming partnerships with stakeholders

· Facilitating regional tourism marketing.

It also sets out, in order of priority, a number of key actions that local government will take to engage more effectively with the tourism sector. These include establishing a flexible model approach to long-term funding contracts with RTOs and encouraging national co-ordination of RTOs as an important sector group.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Local Government New Zealand and Regional Tourism Organisations of New Zealand has recently been agreed by Local Government New Zealand's National Councils. This is another initiative undertaken in direct response to Strateg 2010.

The MOU will provide a framework for ongoing work to implement the recommendations made in Strategy 2010, the RTONZ Strategic Plan, and Postcards from Home.

Currently, RTONZ and LGNZ have committed to working jointly on a project to develop best practice guidelines for RTO governance, accountability and funding contracts. This is evidence of a strong commitment to the tourism sector and exemplifies the kind of partnerships that make the sector successful and strong.

I am delighted that the relationships between RTOs and local government are mirroring the partnerships built between central government and key industry stakeholders, which continue to go from strength to strength.

Conclusion

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 do 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 and we are seeing strong signs of a recovery.

I believe that both the recovery and the ongoing success of the tourism sector stem directly from the strong partnerships forged between our government and key industry groups and leaders.

Building an ever more professional, high-quality tourism industry, expanding product across new regional destinations and throughout the year, requires that same level of commitment from the entire tourism sector-and we are seeing that commitment.

But for New Zealand to truly realise the full potential of our thriving tourism 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 must be fully committed to harnessing the benefits of a sustainable tourism industry to enhance the communities and cultures of New Zealand who host and deliver the services to our guests.

We must continue to communicate our pride in New Zealand to all of our international guests, and in our regions, to each other as New Zealanders. 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 challenges to confront and 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 every single region of 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 thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you tonight, and wish you all success for the coming year.


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