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Launch of Northland Tourism Strategy 2003

Hon. Mark Burton

19 November 2003 Speech

Launch of Northland Tourism Strategy 2003
Enterprise Northland/Destination Northland
My Parliamentary colleague Jim Peters
Chair of the Northland Regional Council

The Mayors of Whangarei and Kaipara

Kia Ora, and greetings to you all. I am delighted to be here today to launch Northland's Tourism Strategy 2003.

Having spent the day visiting a wide variety of the visitor experiences on offer here in Northland, I am convinced that this exciting region has it all.

And now, added to that, Northland has a real edge, a comprehensive tourism strategy.

Local government and you, the industry, must be well satisfied with the foresight and investment made in 1997¡Xand since.

As a result, we are here today to celebrate the launch of your strategy, and I'd like to begin by congratulating all of you all for your part in this process.

I know from my involvement in the development of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 that it is not always easy to combine the different viewpoints of government, industry, and the many different stakeholders in the tourism sector into a shared vision for a shared future.

Northland is to be commended for achieving this goal. I am impressed at the tourism potential in Northland, and the strong sense of self-determination and drive you have exhibited in developing this strategy.

There is no doubt that tourism currently plays, and will continue to play, a vital role in Northland as a driver of business activity, jobs and economic growth.

Strategy 2010, developed through strong partnerships between government and industry, was the first time the issues, challenges, and opportunities of building a truly sustainable tourism industry had been addressed in a comprehensive way.

I am delighted that the Northland Tourism Strategy builds on the spirit of Strategy 2010, and picks up on some of those challenges and opportunities. The Northland Tourism Strategy will provide clear direction to ensure that the entire sector continues to work together to achieve a shared vision of the future.

For me, some of the highlights of the Northland Strategy are:

- The increased emphasis on Maori involvement in tourism - eg the proposed development of a Pou Pou ("Poh Poh") trail through the Rohe of Northland is a fantastic concept;

- The alignment of Northland's marketing and product development with the research and marketing of Tourism New Zealand. Focusing on high yield visitors will maximise tourism's benefits to the region;

- Recognising the need for sustainable development and growth with the formation of a sustainable tourism development charter; and

- The focus on partnerships between industry, local and central government, Maori and the many communities within Northland that are linked by the twin coast discovery highway, are well demonstrated throughout the strategy. And those links are, I suggest, critical to your success.

But the best strategy in the world won't make a difference unless you know who to sell your product to and how to get your message to them.

I have recently returned from a two-week visit to the United Kingdom, where 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.

This experience really drove home to me the importance of having a clear strategy and focussed marketing plan¡Xand New Zealand has these in place.

But we have to use these tools to show the rest of the world that the truly special thing about us is the unique combination of our environments, our culture, and our people.

That's no easy task for many New Zealanders. Recent research tells us that too many of our people still suffer from "cultural cringe," thinking that this little country on the bottom of the world can't possibly compete with the attractions of other, bigger nations.

Well I want to tell you that that proposition simply isn't valid. Recent work by Tourism New Zealand shows that our international visitors think our lifestyle and culture are absolutely outstanding, and only wish they had more time to explore them.

So, we must take pride in who we are. We must learn to better celebrate and have confidence in our culture, and recognise our incredible levels of achievement, talent, and innovation.

Whilst we all feel comfortable revelling in the world-wide successes of The Lord of the Rings and Whale Rider, it's important to understand that such successes go well beyond these two film projects.

This year, the prestigious London Film Festival not only featured three New Zealand filmmakers¡Xit opened and closed the festival with New Zealand films.

The opening film was Jane Campion's acclaimed new work, In the Cut. The closing gala featured Sylvia, based on the life of Sylvia Plath and directed by Christine Jeffs, who gained international recognition for her film, Rain.

The programme also featured a stunning new film shot entirely on the remote west coast of the South Island - Gaylene Preston's Perfect Strangers.

All three of these films illustrate the depth of talent that can be found in New Zealand across all our creative industries.

But our filmmakers are telling the stories of who we are¡Xstories that the world wants to see, that show audiences around the world what a diverse, unique place we are.

But of course, we cannot market ourselves generically to the entire world. We have to be exceptionally focussed.

I'm sure you will all be aware that Tourism New Zealand has invested considerable efforts to identify New Zealand's "ideal visitor"¡Xthe kind of traveller that we can best satisfy, and who will in return engage with our culture, value and respect our environments, and provide high-yield economic benefits.

We call this guest the "Interactive Traveller."

Drawn to our landscape and natural beauty, these travellers also 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.

As one of New Zealand's premiere cultural and lifestyle destinations, Northland clearly offers the types of experience these visitors want.

Northland was the first region to apply for¡Xand secure¡X$2 million in Major Regional Initiative funding under the category of tourism.

As Minister of Tourism, I also selected Northland as one of five regions to participate in a cultural tourism development programme¡Xa partnership between the government and the sector, aimed at enhancing the quality of, and increasing visitor demand for, your cultural tourism product.

Like the other four regions that have been selected, Northland is already well established as a cultural destination in the minds of New Zealanders.

Through this programme, the government will provide support to Northland that will help further build this same reputation in the minds of our international visitors.

Tourism New Zealand will also be co-ordinating a promotional programme to increase visitor awareness of your cultural tourism products, which will help to ensure that you continue to stand out as an ideal destination for high-yield guests.

Clearly, Northland is well placed to maximise the benefits tourism has to offer.

Last year, visitor nights reached over 6 million, and recent research projections by the Tourism Research Council show that Northland can expect a 20 percent increase in total visitor nights to 2009.

But, more importantly, international travellers are expected to drive the majority of growth in visitor expenditure, increasing their spend by 80 percent over the forecast period.

I want to say that you have an advantage over many other regions in that there are some extremely strong partnerships already established here in Northland.

RTOs play a key leadership role in promoting their region as a visitor destination, as well as acting as a bridge between tourism operators, national tourism bodies, and government.

The work of Brian Roberts and his team at Destination Northland, under the capable chairmanship of Mike Simm, is essential in implementing effective promotion campaigns and working with other tourism industry stakeholders to promote the area.

Another important partnership that I want to acknowledge is the partnership between the RTO and the Tai Tokerau Maori and Cultural Tourism Association (TTMCTA).

The Association continues its work to develop and promote Maori and cultural operators here in the North. These operators form part of the distinctly unique offering of this area.

This relationship is a good example of the partnerships with Maori recommended in the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010.

It's clear that tourism has strong, broad-based support in Northland. The community recognises that tourism is one of Northland's key economic drivers, bringing jobs and development opportunities to the region.

Interactive travellers have a strong appreciation of the kind of experiences that Northland has on offer, and they like to get off the beaten track and really enjoy the local culture of the places they visit.

In other words, they treasure those things we often take for granted¡Xthe things we live with every day, but that they have come halfway around the world to see, and to experience.

If we are to continue to build a truly long-term, sustainable future for New Zealand's tourism industry by attracting these high-yield, high-value guests, we must be unwavering in our protection of¡Xand, wherever possible, the enhancement of¡Xall of the elements that make New Zealand one of the world's most special destinations.

We have guardianship of some of the most spectacular and unique natural environments to be found on the planet. We have a population of people who are by their very nature friendly, easy-going, hospitable, and proud of their country. We have a uniquely diverse culture, offering one of the widest varieties of experiences on offer in the world.

And we have an industry working in close partnership with the government to balance the health of the tourism industry with the protection of New Zealand's unique attributes.

I am delighted that the RTO, local government, industry, and the Maori Regional Tourism Group are working together so closely to build a sustainable tourism future for Northland, and trust that the partnerships that have been formed now will continue to go from strength to strength.

So, I urge you to continue to be clear about where you are pitching your region, to continue to recognise and celebrate the special nature of what Northland has to offer, and to remain absolutely disciplined about, and utterly focused on, the quality of both your products and your message.

I wish you every success for the future development of tourism in Northland, and in your work to implement the strategy we are here to launch today.


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