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"Taking Tourism to the Limits" Conference

Hon Mark Burton
9 December 2003 Speech

"Taking Tourism to the Limits" Conference - Waikato University


I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you here at Waikato University today at this important conference. I am especially delighted to see such a large contingent of international delegates and presenters. Truly, this is tourism at work.

It is a great pleasure for me to be discussing tourism research with such an informed group of research practitioners.

The generation and application of knowledge is a vital component of the New Zealand tourism industry, as it is worldwide.

Meetings such as this are a vital part of the process of sharing results, building and maintaining relationships, and of being refreshed—and challenged—with the thoughts and ideas of fellow researchers.

Tourism is the world's largest industry, with some 455 million international travellers spending around US$500 billion per year. The industry is growing rapidly, and has been a tremendous driver of change around the world, particularly in terms of economic development.

The New Zealand tourism industry very much reflects this international trend. Not only is tourism a very large industry in the New Zealand context—it is growing on a relatively rapid and sustained basis.

Key figures include total expenditure of $16.2 billion per year and, importantly, a contribution of 15.7% of New Zealand's export earnings.
International visitor expenditure is forecast to increase by an impressive 9.7% per year to 2009.

This is a rapid growth trajectory and with such phenomena as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Whale Rider, and other creative projects continuing to contribute to New Zealand’s place in the international spotlight, these upbeat forecasts do seem achievable.

Tourism is a critical part of New Zealand’s economy, and so it needs to be supported by quality research and information. I am sure that all of you here today would agree that only through well-informed decision-making processes will the full potential of tourism be realised.

Conference Theme

‘Taking Tourism to the Limits’ is a pertinent and challenging theme for this conference.

I would imagine that this theme means different things to a number of you here.
It could be taking tourism to the most remote destination on the globe, taking it to the limits of its growth potential, or it could be taking it to the outermost reaches of imagination, innovation, drive, and creativity.

From my perspective, the New Zealand tourism sector is about the latter.

A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to open the Happy Valley Skywire, one of the most unique attractions in the country.

Six years in the making, the Skywire is the only ride of its kind in the world—a previously unheard of combination of adrenaline rush plus interactive nature experience. 1.6 km of native bush, a backdrop of the Tasman Ranges, viewed at speeds of up to 100 km/hr.

A little further South, Whale Watch Kaikoura, too, offers our guests something unique. From humble beginnings, to the fusion of a live eco-tourism experience and leading edge virtual reality technology, Whale Watch has become one of the most successful and influential tourism operations in New Zealand.

And, here in the Waikato, I recently opened the Hillside Hotel and Nature Resort, a boutique hotel in the Taupiri Ranges. This facility is located in a beautiful lush rain forest setting, overlooking a dramatic rural landscape.

Guests to Hillside not only have the opportunity to engage with the varied natural environments and experiences the resort provides—they are also able to enjoy fine food, wine, and accommodation, as well as engage with their hosts personally.

It is the people behind these, and many other projects around New Zealand, who are our tourism industry.

It is their determined pursuit of their ambitious and yes, sometimes audacious dream and schemes, that lies behind the strong growth trajectory our sector continues to enjoy.

Such people know exactly what it is that makes us such an extraordinary destination. They know that what guests come halfway around the world to engage with is the real New Zealand— the unique combination of our environments, our culture, and our people.

The industry is recognising the very real importance of the key assets and values of New Zealand, and they are finding more and more ways to actively protect, support, and enhance these special attributes.

Our industry is rich in ideas and ingenuity. You can see it across the sector, with new products and services emerging almost daily.

But in order to make good decisions that will benefit both New Zealand as a whole and the industry itself, good information is vital. That’s what this conference is all about.

Where we are now?

The New Zealand tourism industry has made tremendous strides in recent years as the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 has been implemented.

New Zealand has put in place a leading edge global marketing campaign based upon Tourism New Zealand's "100% Pure New Zealand" brand and specific targeting of the "interactive traveller".

As an international visitor destination, we have clearly identified markets and a powerful campaign for reaching these customers.

Progress has been made in further and ongoing enhancement of quality in the sector, developing a wide range of industry capabilities, and there are various initiatives in place with a specific focus on addressing sustainability issues. These are all substantive areas of work that are contributing strongly to raising tourism industry standards.

Also, the Strategy has had a very important part to play in terms of the alignment of roles and responsibilities within the industry.

The industry currently enjoys a strong sense of common purpose and, at the same time, the various sector agencies have clearly defined areas of responsibilities. This all makes for a very cohesive industry, committed to advancing the key issues.

With respect to the tourism research environment, major progress has also been achieved, with the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 again providing an important impetus.

Firstly, I would highlight that the Strategy identified research as a key "enabler" of the sector and that for the Strategy as a whole to be successful, it needs quality information to inform all sector processes.

Armed with a number of research-related Strategy recommendations, the government has implemented a programme to enhance the provision of tourism research and information.
I established the Tourism Research Council New Zealand in 2000 as the lead body for advancing the research agenda in New Zealand. The Council brings a collective voice to the articulation of tourism research and development requirements, and it has the weight to make things happen.

A key milestone for tourism has been the aggregation of the core tourism data sets and the placement of these with the Ministry of Tourism.

The result is that the key data collections, the Tourism Satellite Account, and the forecasting programme are managed as an integrated system by the Ministry. This has been key to driving towards more consistent and integrated industry data.

Related to this, the Ministry has developed the powerful dissemination tool that is the TRCNZ website. The site was launched earlier this year as a "one-stop-shop" site for tourism sector research, data and forecasts.

In terms of applied research, progress has been made in a number of areas, particularly relating to the TRCNZ's research and development strategy and in the development of an applied research programme supported by my Ministry.

To increase the understanding of the substantial body of research undertaken, a searchable index of New Zealand tourism research has been developed as part of the TRCNZ website. This is an important tool, particularly for researchers.

Clearly, substantial progress has been made, and I am pleased that the Ministry of Tourism's research team will be speaking to you later this morning, setting out more detail on this programme.

Where are we heading?

There is considerable in the notion truth that making progress in one area highlights those areas that also need to be enhanced. The core data set is now in place and, while there is room for development, it is increasingly meeting industry needs.

The next key initiative that I will be looking to advance is to develop New Zealand's applied research capability relating to the tourism sector.

My ambition is to have you, the New Zealand tourism research community, working closely with industry, to engage you in collaborative research projects, and have mechanisms in place to ensure that the knowledge you generate is available to, and utilised by, industry decision-makers.

In considering this objective, I found it particularly interesting to read through the conference programme.

The programme is certainly full and varied, and amongst the vast array of research problems you are talking about this week are key issues of critical importance - tourism and communities, indigenous tourism development, tourism management in natural areas, and much more.

These are the very issues that come through the New Zealand Tourism Strategy and the TRCNZ's R&D Strategy.

This strongly suggests to me that efforts to develop the tourism sector's applied research capacity will be readily achievable if we are able to gear up resourcing in key areas.

As I have noted, I am also very mindful that research needs to be relevant and applicable to users. This is always a challenge, but it is essential for ensuring the knowledge you generate is actually applied.

I certainly look forward to working with you as we advance this programme.


Finally, a couple of concluding remarks.

I would like to acknowledge the conference convenor Chris Ryan and his team for their vision and application in bringing this conference together.
Events such as this one are years in the making and involve the commitment of many people. To each of you involved, I offer my appreciation of your efforts.

I would also like to recognise the large international contingent attending this conference. I realise that today I have spoken mostly from the New Zealand tourism research context. I am, however, mindful that each of you will be facing similar issues in your home countries.

I hope that what we have achieved is of interest to you and, in turn, we New Zealanders are certainly most interested in hearing other approaches from around the world.

The international connections made at these conferences are key for us all to explore how we can do better as we consider the local, regional, national and global implications, opportunities, and challenges of tourism, and the management approaches necessary at each of these levels.

I hope you will learn something from our experience, and I am sure we will all learn a great deal from you.

Once again, I am delighted to welcome you here to Hamilton, New Zealand.

I am sure you will enjoy a stimulating and productive conference, and, in the spirit of the industry you all spend so much time reflecting on, I hope you will also take the time to enjoy some of the tourism experiences on offer in the Waikato region and, indeed, further afield.


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