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Burton: Building a reputation for excellence

Mark Burton Speech: Building a reputation for excellence - New Zealand's tourism sector in 2004

Building a reputation for excellence-New Zealand's tourism sector in 2004

While The Lord of the Rings was certainly instrumental in putting New Zealand on the map, it is by no means the foundation of our reputation.

Right now, New Zealand's name is synonymous with Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings trilogy offered us an unparalleled opportunity to showcase ourselves internationally-not only our spectacular landscapes and environments, but our innovation, our creativity, and our technical prowess. But, while LOTR was certainly instrumental in putting New Zealand on the map, it is by no means the foundation of our reputation. No one event-no matter how huge-can form the basis of a truly successful tourism sector. In 1999 the New Zealand government began to work closely with the industry to establish strong partnerships across the sector, and to develop a strategy for building a sustainable, yield-driven industry-one that strikes a balance between managing the impacts of tourism on our natural, made and cultural environments and maximising its obvious potential for economic benefits. We launched this key document-the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 three years ago, and it has been invaluable in bringing us to where we are today. I want to emphasise the strategy is a positive tool for indicating the direction for collaboration not a prescriptive list of directives carved on tablets of stone. In this same period, our marketing agency Tourism New Zealand haddeveloped the successful 100% Pure New Zealand campaign. Their aim was to deepen and broaden our image overseas, and to refine our message to our target customer to maximise impact. This work underpins our reputation now as one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Without it, this reputation would not exist-with or without the LOTR trilogy. In the next few minutes, I will take you through some of the ways we have leveraged off LOTR. But I will also show you that New Zealand is about so much more than Middle Earth, and how, more and more, we are becoming known for our unique culture, exceptional hospitality, and the very special experiences we offer our guests.

As we all know, tourism is a volatile industry. Many of the factors which can impact on the sector are, quite simply, beyond the control of governments and national tourism offices. Geographic location and natural features are obvious examples, and the current worldwide volatility is another.

Events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bali bombing, SARS, and the war in Iraq have had a major impact on international travel, with visitor numbers declining around much of the world.

The New Zealand tourism market, however, has remained robust in the post-September 11 period, and we have seen record growth in both 2002 and 2003.

There is no doubt that these results are due in part to our geography, no longer the tyranny of distance but the advantage, but also in part to our work on developing our Tourism Strategy. Not only did we have a plan for the future development of New Zealand tourism-crucially we also had relationships in place which allowed us to respond to some very real challenges to the industry in a collaborative and coordinated way.

New Zealand was already in strong growth mode by 1999. As you can see, international visitor arrivals to New Zealand have grown at approximately 6% per year over the past 6 years.

But, as I have said, our goal is to build a sustainable, high-yield, industry that both maximises economic benefits and minimises environmental impacts. To achieve that, it is vital to target guests who will stay longer, spend more, explore different areas of the country, and travel year-round-and we are doing just that.

Visitor expenditure has grown at an annual average rate of approximately 13%, a rate significantly higher than arrival growth and reflecting increasing spend per visitor.

So, international events, geography, and our marketing strategy are working together to help us achieve our goals.

But just how did we arrive at the right image to fuel potential visitors' perceptions of New Zealand, and their desire to come halfway around the world to get there?

When we went through the process of analysing what New Zealand meant to people-just what it is that attracts them to our shores-it turned out that, far from not having many answers, we actually had too many!

But we cannot be a bit of everything for everybody. We needed to focus on what it is that makes us truly unique.

When we asked people what they thought of when they heard the words "New Zealand", this is what we found. When we boiled them all down, we found the essence of New Zealand-authenticity. That was the message we had to get out to the world.

In 1999, New Zealand was still an underrated tourism destination, indistinct and uncompelling in the international market. We had growth - but not a clear, long-term basis for continued, purposeful growth in terms that were necessarily in New Zealand's long-term interests.

The multi-award winning 100% Pure campaign has created a superlative brand that conveys the very experience of New Zealand.

It paints a picture of the remarkable people, unique culture, and invigorating experiences visitors will find in New Zealand-not just our clean green landscape, but a 100% Pure New Zealand experience.

By its very definition, this focus on authenticity means that the 100% Pure campaign is not something that could simply be used as a kitset for other markets. It is about New Zealand.

100% Pure is Tourism New Zealand's global marketing campaign. It is very much an integrated campaign - including the key elements of advertising, international media, events leveraging, the internet, and trade training.

All these components work together to strengthen our reputation in marketing New Zealand to our target audiences offshore-high-value guests whose expectations best match what New Zealand has to offer.

LOTR offered an unparalleled opportunity to raise international awareness of New Zealand as a premiere destination, and the government acted quickly on that opportunity. In the year 2000, government agencies such as Investment New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand began working in partnership to ensure the benefits to New Zealand from LOTR were maximised.

Marketing work has been fully integrated across all elements of the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign, including an interactive LOTR map on website for which PATA is honouring us this week.

Our International Media Programme has seen targeted media from around the world brought to New Zealand, where they have been hosted on tours throughout the country.

This both builds on our "Middle Earth" profile and importantly, exposes media to the wide range of other products, activities and experiences available in New Zealand.

Journalists, including those brought to New Zealand for The Return of the King premiere, generated coverage estimated to have reached over 400 million people.

LOTR provided us with a wonderful opportunity- but all the more so because we already had our tourism strategy and marketing plan in place. The trilogy fitted perfectly with our goals in a mutually advantageous way. With our pristine environment as a backdrop, we were able to showcase our originality, creativity and above all, our quality-LOTR represented all of those things.

It was about an audacious undertaking on a global scale-about our beautiful little country daring to be a world leader. It was about state-of-the-art special effects, and exquisite creative design work. These were the messages we wanted to convey about our nation as a whole-and that's what our visitors can expect.

But, as I said at the beginning-it's not all about LOTR. On Oscar night, a very different aspect of New Zealand was on show for the world.

Keisha Castle-Hughes became the youngest ever Best Actress nominee for her role in the movie Whale Rider-a combination of New Zealand's scenic beauty and a rich tale of our people, culture and legends.

Whale Rider has found a place in the hearts of many around the world, just as New Zealand has itself.

At the heart of New Zealand's tourism success are our people. In managing our reputation offshore, the way we host is just as important as the special experiences and products we offer.

If we are going to continue to be one of the world's most sought-after, premiere destinations, we have to be courageous enough to know what we do well, and do it! No destination can be all things to all people. And we need to be ambitious enough to hold our nerve, and not be tempted to deviate from our commitment to quality.

I am confident that the New Zealand tourism sector will continue to be successful. When we look at our industry leaders, what we find are innovators, innovators and entrepreneurs who have given us world-leading experiences. We have them in environmental tourism, in adventure tourism, in fine wine and food, in fashion, in culture-we have them at every level. We can deliver world class products and services so why would we settle for anything less?

PATA has honoured New Zealand's 100% Pure New Zealand campaign with the Grand Award for Marketing, so what better way to conclude than by inviting you to take a look for yourselves.

Play TNZ Promo Video (4minutes 30)

As the feature article in a recent Washington Post proclaimed, if you haven't just spent the last five minutes planning a holiday to New Zealand you've just wasted 5 minutes!

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