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Burton: Opening of Tourism Research Conference

8 December 2004 Speech

Hon Mark Burton: Opening of Tourism Research Conference

I am delighted to be here this morning to open the sixth New Zealand Tourism and Hospitality Research Conference.

While a lot has changed since this series began ten years ago at Massey University, it's my view that we still have a lot to do.

First, I want to acknowledge the contribution of the research community to our industry.

Tourism is an economic powerhouse, delivering benefits across New Zealand. It is essential that it be supported by quality information.

Just as a reminder of how important the sector is to the New Zealand economy, I'd like to cite some well-known numbers I have been known to quote before (on occasion).

Tourism contributes close to 10 per cent of New Zealand's GDP, supports more than one in ten jobs, and represents an astounding 18 per cent of New Zealand's export earnings - making this premier industry our number one export earner.

These are compelling figures indeed.

The outlook is equally impressive, with international visitor arrivals forecast to increase by 5.8 per cent per annum to 2010, with even stronger growth in expenditure at 8.5 per cent.

By 2010, New Zealand will receive well over 3 million international visitors per year, with international earnings nearly doubling to more than $11 billion per year.

But with the sector's success comes serious responsibilities. These numbers raise a range of critical questions:

- What economic and employment opportunities does this growth provide?

- How well can New Zealand's environments and communities accommodate this growth?

- How do we provide the necessary infrastructure to support this growth?

- How can we ensure that we are targeting the kind of visitors who are most suited and beneficial to New Zealand?

If we are going to build a truly sustainable tourism sector for New Zealand and there are those who believe it is impossible - then we have to grapple with these questions.

This is where you, as New Zealand's research community, come in. After all, without the right information, it's difficult to make the critical decisions that will enable the sector's long-term future.

That is why we have to further strengthen the relationship between the sector's decision-making processes and our knowledge generating capacity.

The Ministry of Tourism-sponsored industry session this afternoon will provide an opportunity to explore these relationships further.

Lex Henry, Chair of the Tourism Research Council New Zealand, will be guiding this session. I hope it will culminate in some challenging discussion on how we can improve the flow of research into the sector's decision-making processes.

Developing this relationship is critical, and I look forward to receiving feedback on this session.

Since becoming Minister of Tourism five years ago (almost to the day, I note), I have taken real pride in the tremendous progress our government has made in improving the tourism sector's information base.

I established the Tourism Research Council New Zealand (TRCNZ), to provide leadership on tourism research matters. The Council's very senior industry membership reflects our serious, ongoing commitment to the sector in setting and advancing the tourism research agenda.

My Ministry has established a dedicated research team that supports the Tourism Research Council, managing the core tourism data set and undertaking a number of research and analysis functions.

The Ministry also supports the TRCNZ website www.trcnz.govt.nz the one-stop-shop for tourism research data set up in February 2003. This has become a tremendous resource for the sector.

The Ministry's research budget is now around $4 million annually, reflecting the significant new funding that has been made available.

This represents a serious investment in tourism research by the public sector.

We are seeing very tangible results from this programme.

My Ministry has gone to considerable effort to increase the quality and consistency of the core tourism data set. This is work in progress in some respects, but we continue to make tremendous progress.

Our forecasting programme has developed a track record of accuracy¡Xspot on last year and tracking very well again this year.

Each year, new levels of detailed information have been developed.

For example, the forecasting programme actually produces the best regional-level tourism information we have. These regional reports are very useful, and they can be accessed on the TRCNZ website.

More and more, we are seeing the results of the forecasting programme being used industry-wide. Using a common set of growth expectations across the tourism sector is key for driving the changes we need.

The Tourism Ministry is engaged in a major project that uses the forecasts to inform tourism's infrastructure requirements.

Already, there are excellent examples of various agencies, such as local Councils, RTOs, and tourism operators, integrating the forecasts into their planning and decision-making processes to ensure tourism is appropriately catered for.

The next step is to encourage local government to incorporate tourism into their own strategic planning processes.

As a research project this will be challenging, to say the least. Understanding the tourism activity of our host communities, then meeting the information needs of 74 local authorities plus Regional Councils may be a big ask, but I believe we are up to it!

Another major project underway is a partnership research project, Enhancing Yield in the New Zealand Tourism Sector.

Designed to generate the knowledge and insights necessary to enable New Zealand to increase our tourism yield, this project has been funded both by the Ministry of Tourism and the industry, particularly through the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand.

This research will allow the sector to maximise its economic contribution, while still keeping sustainability at the forefront.

It is my pleasure today to release two more significant research reports, both focused on building Maori engagement in tourism.

The first is Measurement of Maori in Tourism. Using analysis by the Ministry of Tourism and Statistics New Zealand, this report establishes a baseline measurement of Maori sector participation.

Key highlights include:

- Over 18,000 Maori were employed in tourism in 2001 11 per cent of the work force

- Maori are engaged in tourism in a comparable rate to non-Maori, and

- Growth of Maori employment was faster than that of non-Maori over the 1999-2001 period.

The research also shows that Maori workers are more likely to be part-time, with lower qualification levels and lower income levels.

Gaining this baseline understanding of Maori involvement in the sector is important. It will be even more important to track progress over the coming years.

The second report I am releasing today is entitled Demand for Maori Cultural Tourism, a joint project by the Ministry of Tourism and Tourism New Zealand.

This research shows strong demand for Maori tourism from international travellers, with 46% visiting sites important to Maori history and 45% experiencing Maori cultural performances.

However, more needs to be done to turn this strong interest in Maori culture into actual participation.

This research provides some real insights into visitors' perceptions and requirements. It also outlines areas of focus for the future, including:

- Quality of service and facilities

- Ability of visitors to mix with Maori

- Translation of information, and

- Authenticity of experience.

These research reports will play an important role in informing the future development of Maori tourism. Both are available from the Ministry of Tourism, and I encourage you to become familiar with their findings.

Another exciting initiative is the Masters-level research scholarship programme I established earlier this year, to foster research on real industry issues. These five $15,000 scholarships illustrate our commitment to students who undertake graduate-level tourism research.

The Ministry of Tourism is currently assessing applications, and we hope to announce recipients prior to Christmas.

Discussions are underway for Visa International to become a co-sponsor of the scholarship programme a very exciting development that will enable a substantial increase in available resources.

This is an excellent example of the kinds of partnerships government continues to build across the sector.

That is a brief overview of our work over the past five years. But while we have accomplished a great deal over that time, there is much more to do. Before I go, I'd like to set out what I believe should be our course for the future.

The New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 stresses the important role of applied research in achieving sustainability.

The Strategy strongly recommends that levels of research funding should be more closely aligned to the industry's overall contribution.

Making substantive progress in this area is the key challenge facing the Tourism Research Council over the next three years.

I am firmly of the view that, just as we lead the world in innovative tourism products and services, we need to lead the world in the intellectual processes that underpin this vital industry.

It is here our next set of challenges lie.

As a first step, the Council has set itself the task of defining the sector's research priorities. Industry leaders must establish these priorities to meet real industry requirements.

The Ministry and the Research Council are currently gathering feedback from across the sector on these requirements.

If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to take the time to make your views known on the TRCNZ website. I thank those who have already responded.

The Council will assess this feedback and set out a list of projects to be advanced over the forthcoming period.

The Council will also examine the structures needed to advance this research agenda.

In my view, current arrangements may be too fragmented, or the incentive components inappropriately set, for us to make the major strides necessary.

These are matters of real importance, and I am pleased that this afternoon's session will commence a dialogue on this critical area.

Finally, the Council will look at the resources available to drive the research agenda.

From my perspective, I will be very happy to consider partnership research, particularly where the industry requirement for information is compelling (although of course I cannot bankroll every proposed project!).

It will take time to work through these research issues, but given our progress over the past five years, I am confident we will continue to make real, positive gains.

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to thank you, the New Zealand tourism research community, for your dedication and commitment. As a government, we are as committed as you are to strengthening our information base.

We have come a long way since the first Tourism and Hospitality Research Conference back in 1994. Today, we have a unified vision for the future, and a real programme of work in place to help us achieve our goals.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge Professor Douglas Pearce and his team at Victoria University for bringing this conference together.

I wish you all the best for the conference. The industry session today will, I'm sure, be interesting and challenging.

This evening it is my pleasure to host the conference reception on my turf - at the Grand Hall in Parliament, right across the road.

I look forward to catching up with you again this evening and hearing about your discussions.

ENDS

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