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Auckland Tourism Industry Update

Hon. Mark Burton
20 November 2003 Speech
Auckland Tourism Industry Update

It is my very great pleasure to be with you today here in the City of Sails for your Industry Update meeting. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest destination for international visitors and a major domestic holiday destination, as well as the largest generator of Kiwi domestic leisure trips and overseas travel.

The range and quality of attractions offered in Auckland, including the Sky City development with its new convention centre and hotel, are major drawcards for the region.

With a number of major events scheduled for 2004, including the Holden New Zealand Golf Open in January, Mamma Mia arriving in March, and the Propecia Rally New Zealand in April, Auckland looks set for another great year.

I don’t have to tell you how important tourism is to New Zealand’s economy. Currently second only to dairy in terms of export receipts, it’s my belief that the tourism sector has the potential to become our number one industry. (Not that I’m in any way biased…)

Auckland’s slice of the tourism market is, as I noted before, extremely important to the industry’s overall economic contribution.

Forecasts indicate that the region can expect a 63 percent growth in international visitor nights to 2009, the highest anticipated growth in the country.

In that same period, international guests are expected to drive a 94 percent increase in visitor expenditure—an impressive figure indeed.

But just who are these visitors who will drive such exceptional growth?

As leaders in the sector, I’m sure you will all be aware of the considerable efforts Tourism New Zealand is investing to identify and target New Zealand’s “ideal visitor.”

Termed “Interactive Travellers,” these guests are drawn to our landscape and natural beauty, and place significant value on interacting with our people, our culture, and our environment. These high-yield, high-value travellers regularly visit international destinations and consume a wide range of tourism products.

But such visitors are discerning, with an ever-increasing emphasis on such elements as fine food, fine wine, and high quality accommodation. Their demands are increasingly sophisticated, and it is crucial that businesses across the sector provide for those demands.

The Auckland region, with its wide range of attractions, is well placed to meet the expectations of the interactive traveller.

Visitors can enjoy some of the finest dining and shopping in the world, summit Rangitoto, go wine tasting in Kumeu or on Waiheke Island, test their adrenaline tolerance at the world’s highest tower based jump, meet real penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s, experience what the City of Sails really means while cruising on the harbour, or try their hand at any number of other activities in and around the city.

These kind of authentic Kiwi experiences illustrate why such visitors come to New Zealand. Although regrettably, too many New Zealanders still have a tendency towards “cultural cringe”—downplaying, underselling or under-valuing our culture—recent research by Tourism New Zealand shows that our international visitors think it is absolutely outstanding, and only wish they had more time to explore it.

I’m definitely not one of those people who under-rates New Zealand. On the contrary, as Minister of Tourism, I take every opportunity to express my pride in New Zealand.

I have recently returned from a two-week visit to the United Kingdom—a market second only to Australia in terms of visitor numbers. There, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at several key tourism events, including the World Travel Mart (WTM), one of Europe’s leading travel trade shows.
The enormity of the challenge to New Zealand, not only to have an audible voice amongst the noise and clutter of the intensely competitive international tourism industry, but to get across the message we want to have heard was graphically driven home to me as I stood in the middle of this event.

The floor space of the WTM exhibition centre would dwarf many sport stadiums, and the New Zealand delegation was amongst 5000 exhibitors from 189 countries.

So how do we, as one of the smallest countries in the world, make ourselves heard above the din?

Part of the answer came to me when I spoke at and presented the premiere award at the fourth annual New Zealand Travel and Tourism UK awards.

This event, designed to acknowledge marketing excellence amongst the UK travel trade who promote New Zealand as a destination, was clearly viewed as a very prestigious one by the UK tourism sector.

The standard of entries for these awards was exceptional, with some of the most innovative ideas and high quality products I have ever seen. Clearly, marketing New Zealand brings out the best in people!

It’s fair to say that times have changed from the days when New Zealand’s image in the UK was largely one of sheep, cows, and rugby—a pretty place, but certainly not properly appreciated for its diverse culture and depth of visitor experiences.

We've come a long way since then—with our tourism sector now working closely and cooperatively with government, and thanks to the hard work of Tourism New Zealand, the phenomenal success of such films as The Lord of the Rings and Whale Rider, and ongoing TV and print features around the world, New Zealand is now seen as one of the hottest destinations in the world.

In fact, the readers of premiere UK travel magazine Wanderlust recently named New Zealand as its top travel destination for the third time in a row, giving us a near perfect satisfaction rate of 97.4 percent.

Significant credit is due, I believe, to the efforts of Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) worldwide. With a clear strategy and innovative, focussed marketing plan, they are punching well above their weight on New Zealand’s behalf in markets around the world.

The 100% Pure New Zealand campaign has been called “the best in the world,” they have developed the interactive traveller profile, and orchestrate outstanding companion marketing to The Lord of the Rings and Whale Rider.

A particular success has been TNZ’s International Media Programme. Visits supported by this initiative in 2001 and 2002/3 have resulted in coverage that has reached an estimated audience of over 90 million readers or viewers worldwide.

New Zealand has also been promoted extensively during the build up to the 2002 and 2003 Academy awards. The phrase ‘New Zealand – best supporting country in a motion picture’ with a The Lord of the Rings clapperboard image featured in the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
Newzealand.com, managed by TNZ, has recently been named as the best travel and tourism website in New Zealand. The site was highly praised, by the judges, who said that “the wonderful warm beauty of this site entices visitors in and convinces them how appealing New Zealand is to either visit or do business in.”

As TNZ have full responsibility for the site’s design, graphics, layout, and copy, I think this award is another excellent example of their skill, talent, and innovative approach to marketing New Zealand.

Although we are still justifiably known internationally for our spectacular natural attributes, I believe that they are increasingly tending to serve as the backdrop for New Zealand’s many other attractions.

Through their dedicated work, we are being seen more and more as a sophisticated, year-round destination, rich in opportunities for unique cultural and arts experiences—a country whose reputation for innovation, talent and creativity is growing by the day.

But ensuring continued success on the world stage must also be based in putting out clear messages about who we are and what makes us truly special: the unique combination of our environments, our culture, and our people. We cannot afford to undervalue any one of these elements, much less their impact when taken as a whole.

Equally, we must ensure that whatever we do to promote the growth and economic prosperity of the industry will, in the long term, help safeguard the future of the environments and values that are New Zealand.

Quite simply—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.

This balance depends on encouraging 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.

For you—this may include greater focus on the effective partnerships with neighbouring regions such as Northland, where I last night launched the Northland Tourism Strategy.

As I say at every opportunity, all of this depends on putting quality at the heart of the tourism industry, and in ensuring that every visitor receives a world-class experience—in their accommodation, their food, the activities they choose and the environments they visit.

Maintaining the highest possible level of quality is paramount if we are to keep building on our excellent international reputation. Tourism industry leaders and government have recognised the need for an official, industry-wide quality assurance programme to maintain quality standards across the sector.

To achieve this, the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 recommended an expansion of the Qualmark system.

I’m sure that you are all aware that Government responded to this recommendation by investing an additional $2.5 million over three years in Qualmark to promote the adoption of best practice across the tourism sector.

Quality is the most important element in supporting the building of the long-term, sustainable future for New Zealand’s thriving tourism industry that I’ve been talking about this morning.

In September of this year, we had our 1000th business register to become Qualmark rated, and more and more operators are recognising the benefits of being associated with an easily recognised, respected symbol of quality.
As the principal shareholder of Qualmark, Tourism New Zealand has committed itself to supporting the businesses that choose to participate in the Qualmark programme. This support includes priority listing on Tourism New Zealand’s website, www.newzealand.com.

I encourage any of you who may not have investigated Qualmark yet to access the site, and see how it may benefit your business.

So, in conclusion, let me recap. We all know that we have a lot going for us in New Zealand – our spectacularly beautiful natural environments, the uniqueness of our Maori culture, pride in our vibrant, sophisticated country, and the reputation of our friendly, warm people. These are the attributes that drew over 2 million international visitors here last year. And, most importantly, visitors who spent considerably more per capita than ever before.

It is essential that these qualities are not compromised or allowed to degrade in any way as we continue to develop our industry. And, if we wish to remain competitive in the global marketplace and ensure that tourism remains sustainable, we must continue to think strategically in the positioning of our products.

The long-term, sustainable future of our industry depends on the entire sector being absolutely disciplined in focuing on quality products aimed at quality visitors.

The challenge is for all of us, as industry participants, to be clear about where we stand in the market. New Zealand will never be the cheapest destination in the world, nor would we want it to be.

However, by focusing on service quality, increased yield, and better returns, I believe we can genuinely realise the aspiration of being the world’s best destination

It is my view that, with this kind of focus for the future, tourism’s potential is almost limitless.

Thank you again for the opportunity to join you this morning. I wish you well with the balance of your programme.

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