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Burton Speech: Info the key to quality tourism

Mark Burton Speech: Opening of the Visitor Information Centre Annual Conference: Information the key to quality tourism

The Importance of the Visitor Information Network

Good evening. I am delighted to be back with you tonight at the opening of this year’s VIN conference—this time here in my hometown of Taupo. So, to all of you gathered here, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa—welcome to the Central North Island.

Last year I spoke to you about launching the very first i-SITE visitor centre right here in Taupo. Now, one year on, it’s important to take a look back over the past twelve months and evaluate the i-SITE re-branding initiative, the first since VIN’s launch in 1991.

As representatives of New Zealand’s thriving tourism sector, you will all be well aware of the vital role that the industry plays in our economy, and so it is appropriate that we also reflect on the key role of VIN centres, in the further development of the quality visitor experience.

In fact, the industry has been experiencing an unprecedented boom in recent years. With over two million international visitors in 2002 contributing over $6 billion to our economy, tourism now runs a close second to New Zealand’s dairy industry in terms of export receipts.

Even better, market research shows that our visitors are staying longer and spending more, with an average spend which has increased by 95% since 1997. In 2002 alone, New Zealand welcomed around 7% more international visitors, while recording an outstanding 17.3% increase in yield. We also achieved a one-day increase in the average length of stay from 21 to 22 days. These are, by any reckoning, pretty impressive results. But if we are to sustain this growth, we must make sure that accurate, high quality information is easily available to our domestic and international guests—a fact recognised by the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010.

Research has shown that 87% of potential visitors to New Zealand are likely to use visitor information centres to obtain information while travelling around the world.

The Strategy identifies the Visitor Information Network as an integral part of delivering the kind of quality visitor experience that strengthens the sector as a whole. In fact, it aimed to make the Network the most valued source of objective New Zealand information and travel services available, and the government backed this up with the funding that has made the new ‘i-SITE’ brand possible.

In 2001, recognising the importance of VIN, the Government committed to an investment of over $600,000 in the system, with an additional $2.5 million in Qualmark for the following three years.

The launch of i-SITE illustrates that the Network is well on its way to achieving its goals. i-Site not only plays a vital role in providing our visitors with the most comprehensive and accurate information available—it also ensures that they experience high quality service and hospitality in getting that information.

Delivering on our Promise of Quality

When you are visiting a destination for the first time, it is easy to be bombarded with information—a situation I’m sure we are all familiar with. How can we be sure that the information our visitors are receiving is accurate and objective?

By combining the globally recognised “i” symbol with the distinctive silver fern—used by both Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure campaign and Qualmark’s accreditation system—we are providing our visitors with a recognisable brand of quality.

By pairing these two images, i-SITE is instantly identifiable as world-class, high quality, and uniquely New Zealand. It seems that our international visitors agree. Our research shows that 98% of visitor centre users believe that it is important to have an official network of visitor information centres.

Through the combined efforts of i-SITE Visitor Centres, industry operators, Tourism New Zealand, and Qualmark, we can and we must ensure that our guests continue to have memorable, world-class experiences in New Zealand—the kind that leaves them longing to return.

The Interactive Traveller

If we are to build New Zealand’s reputation as a year-round, sophisticated destination, recognised for our regional distinctions, high-yield visitors, high-quality products, outstanding level of service, and unique, high-profile events, then it is essential that we target the right market.

Visitor numbers are certainly a significant indicator of growth, but, as I indicated earlier, we are equally committed to attracting the kinds of high-yield guests who travel at different times of the year, stay longer, and visit not only our traditional spots, but venture out into less familiar regions.

Visitors who fit this profile—termed ‘interactive travellers’ by Tourism New Zealand—will expect to have the right information to enhance their experience of New Zealand at their fingertips. These guests tend to be regular international travellers, consume a wide range of tourism products, and want to engage in authentic experiences with our natural, social, and cultural environments.

Easily accessible, pertinent information is vital if we are to highlight the unique opportunities to be enjoyed in our regions and to encourage these ideal visitors to participate in the wide range of activities on offer. Already, a large proportion of international visitors who use i-SITE visitor centres have been identified as interactive travellers. This proves that simply motivating these visitors to come to New Zealand is not enough – we must ensure that they have a quality experience by continuing to meet their needs throughout their time here.

I have no doubt that our i-SITE Visitor Information Centres are crucial to this aim. I am equally confident that you share my determination to strive to further enhance the quality of the service we provide to our visitors.

By providing our guests with information about local secrets and stories throughout the regions, we can ensure that New Zealand is able to meet and exceed visitor expectations, and to deliver on the industry goal of offering a world-class visitor experience for all of our guests.

Thank you again for the opportunity to join you for the opening night of the 2003 Visitor Information Centre Annual Conference. I wish you well for what I am sure will be a productive Conference, and a most enjoyable visit.

I know you will work hard, but we also want you to enjoy the many wonders of our region, so remember to drop in to the local i-SITE. I’m sure they will be able to help you out!

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