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O'Connor: TRENZ Media Briefing

TRENZ Media Briefing

If the Tourism industry can deliver on the inspiration, New Zealand will deliver on the experience

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Kia ora. It is my pleasure as Minister of Tourism to be here to speak to you at Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand 2006, and it is a great pleasure to see so many people from so many places here to explore the opportunities presented by our vibrant industry.

In particular, I am glad to be welcoming those of you who are visiting New Zealand for the first time.

In fact, 15 years ago, I was sitting with you in the audience, in my former role as owner of a rafting business on the Buller River. In those days I had a real job!

New Zealand has an incredible amount to offer, including some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, a unique cultural heritage, spectacular natural environments, world-leading adventure activities, fine food and wine, and excellent shopping.

But 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.

And that is what TRENZ is all about-building relationships. As New Zealand's largest trade show, TRENZ is the high point of the tourism business calendar, offering an unparalleled opportunity for New Zealand operators to begin new relationships, strengthen long-standing business links, and showcase an ever more diverse range of products.

Tourism is immensely valuable to the New Zealand economy. In 2005, international visitors brought us $7.4 billion in foreign exchange earnings. We welcome over 2.3 million visitors a year to New Zealand. And one in 10 New Zealanders are employed directly or indirectly by the tourism industry.

Tourism is, by any measure a premier industry for the New Zealand economy, and by all projections, it will continue to grow, in a sustainable way.

As media, you play an important, ongoing role in our success. We are proud of what we can offer and we want you to go out and tell as many people as you can about this country. We will make sure that when they come they will not be disappointed

But this event is not just a chance for you to observe the business of tourism, it is also a chance for you to enjoy our country as tourists yourselves.

From Christchurch alone, you can enjoy beautiful swimming and surfing beaches, or drive for only a couple of hours into native alpine forests and ski fields. Our tourism experiences are equally diverse from thrill seeking, to wildlife watching, to relaxing.

And new destinations are being added all the time. At the top of the West Coast, near Karamea on the edge of the Kahurangi National Park, is a little-known gem of a place called Oparara Valley.

The valley is also home of the largest limestone arch in the Southern Hemisphere and a labyrinth of underground caves, which contain the largest and most varied collection of subfossil bird bones ever found in New Zealand.

British conservationist David Bellamy described the valley on a recent visit as "the most amazing world heritage site I have ever been to, and I have been to a lot of them".

Of course, scenery alone does not make a great tourism destination. Our wine and food is world class and we have accommodation to suit every type of traveller. You'll see this afternoon when you get a chance to walk the TRENZ floor that many of these activities are showcased here this year.

Complementing New Zealand's natural beauty is our unique cultural mix. The blend of European, Pacific, and indigenous Maori cultures is a distinctive one, and the tourism industry has recognised this.

The development of new and innovative ways to showcase this diversity has lead to cultural tourism becoming an increasingly important part of our tourism strategy.

Not just in places like Rotorua, which does a superb job of showcasing Maori art, history and culture to the world, but in less well-known centres such as Whangara, where Whale Rider was filmed, and Wanganui, which was the setting of the movie River Queen.

These beautiful places, with their own unique stories to tell, now increasingly offer authentic cultural experiences, just off the beaten track. Equally, you might easily discover a special place - a beach, a swimming hole, an area of native forest that very few people know about.

Likewise, the creative flair of New Zealanders has become an increasingly important factor both in marketing New Zealand and in providing quality attractions and events for tourists once they arrive.

This can be seen in the immense attention lavished upon New Zealand in the wake of such locally produced films as the Lord of the Rings, which provide invaluable evidence of both New Zealand's beauty, and the creativity that is fostered here.

It can also be seen in the growing reputation of such unique events as our World of Wearable Arts, Wild Foods and the Toast Martinborough wine and food festivals, which grew from small regional events into major tourism attractions.

New Zealanders' cultural mix and creativity have combined to produce a nation of storytellers. Kiwis are great talkers.

Every small settlement, town, city and region has its own stories. But you can also come across a good yarn in the least expected of places.

You can stop and ask directions and before you know it you'll be telling your life story and hearing someone else's.

You'll learn the history of some small dot on the map where you might only have stopped for a cup of tea. It's the Kiwi way - inquisitive, friendly, engaging - and we think it's another thing that makes New Zealand such a special place to visit.

This combination of a spectacular natural environment, unique cultural offerings and quality tourism operations is a vital one, not just for individual operators or the industry, but for our country as a whole.

As Minister of Tourism, I would be remiss if I did not encourage you all to experience this during your time here, both for our business and for your own enjoyment.

TRENZ alone is expected to generate about $2 billion worth of tourism sales. It is little wonder therefore that it is the biggest trade events in this country.

Of course, just generating the business is only part of the picture. Key to any industry is the ability to repeat business and ensure visitors return.

I am very conscious of the fact that, while marketing and media are central to our strategy of encouraging overseas visitors into our tourism market, it is the experiences they have while they are here that impacts long term on our tourism industry.

Every time a great experience is had, it has the potential to encourage further travel to our shores.

However, word of mouth about any bad experience can also be damaging when people are trying to decide where to travel.

For travellers from Asia, Europe and the Americas in particular, a trip to New Zealand is a major investment, and it is important that people feel very confident about their choice of destination.

We are committed to ensuring that the experience our visitors have is a quality one.

Qualmark, is New Zealand's official quality assurance agency, which spans all sectors of our visitor industry.

It is joint venture between Tourism New Zealand and the New Zealand Automobile Association. Professional and trustworthy New Zealand visitor-related businesses are licensed to use the Qualmark, the official mark of quality in the tourism industry.

This quality assurance mechanism is unique to New Zealand and due to its growth we now have a system which allows visitors to be able to book their entire stay and activities with Qualmarked companies.

Qualmark certification now provides visitors with easily recognisable, independent assurance that they can book and buy with confidence, from a professional and trustworthy operator.

Many of the companies at this event are Qualmarked, and as this continues to grow, I would expect that the system will only become stronger in its ability to ensure that visitors can design their whole trip with Qualmark-registered organisations.

Ensuring that visitor's experience is first class is of utmost importance as it enhances the perceptions of the individual brands and the companies overall profile.

I'd also like to announce the launch of a new Qualmark category for holiday homes, or baches or cribs as Kiwis call them.

Over recent years there has been a growth in holiday home style of accommodation. The concept is likely to appeal to our ideal visitor, the Interactive Traveller, who likes to really experience New Zealand and with the reach of the Internet, we have seen that many overseas visitors have been choosing to stay in holiday accommodation as they travel around New Zealand.

International and domestic travellers will now book this special type of accommodation with greater confidence.

We know from our research that our ideal guest is what we have come to call The Interactive Traveller.

Many of you here today will fit into this category as they are visitors who are looking for unique and authentic experiences. They want real interaction with our people and environments.

Tourism New Zealand has been using innovative ways of reaching our target audience.

The campaign, supplemented with creative displays at events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, captures the imagination of millions of international visitors.

But, once we have whetted the potential traveller's appetite, the question is "can we deliver?"

You bet.

We're making sure of it.

I can say this with confidence because sitting behind the marketing, New Zealand is doing an extraordinary amount of work to guarantee that we will continue to live up to our reputation, and remain the preferred destination for travellers long into the future.

We are also working hard to ensure that the estimated 16,500 tourism businesses operating in New Zealand today have the tools they need to understand, and work effectively in the tourism marketplace.

That's why I am delighted to launch the new Tourism New Zealand publication 'Give it 100%'

Give It 100% is a guide to marketing a tourism business, providing information to new or developing operators on how the tourism industry works, what TNZ does, and how they can market their product.

After reviewing the previous publication last year, Tourism New Zealand have focused this latest edition on providing information around marketing for both new businesses, and established businesses who wish to develop their marketing capacity This publication also references the latest research and industry details.

Give it 100% will be available online at tourismnewzealand.com for downloading and copies are available at the back of the room if you'd like to take a closer look at one.

As a country, we are focused more than ever on quality. We are striving to ensure that New Zealand stories and images in brochures, newspaper articles and promotional videos, are matched or bettered by the real thing.

The government is taking a leading hand in this - the whole of government.

Conservation, the environment, transport, education, employment, all play a vital part in ensuring that New Zealand is in a position to provide a top quality visitor experience. They are all part of the big picture.

As I've said, tourism is vital to our economy. And like any successful business we know how to look after our assets.

I can guarantee you that we are at the leading edge of environmental management.

This is why we are investing heavily in protecting the environment, in infrastructure and in services.

We are securing and protecting our huge conservation estates and national parks, so that increasing visitor numbers can continue to be managed without threatening the pristine environment.

At the same time the concessions we provide for tourism operators who work near or in national parks are structured to give their businesses certainty, to ensure they can continue to deliver good service to visitors.

We are supporting Maori tourism, so that more and more fledgling Maori tourism operators can grow their businesses and match the success of such world-class operations as Whalewatch Kaikoura and the Tamaki Brothers.

We are spending billions of dollars upgrading our transport systems to ensure that visitors can get safely to and from our wonderful destinations with a minimum of hassle.

We have created an education environment that provides the hotel managers, waiters, chefs, guides and receptionists, who are the shop front of the hospitality and tourism industries, with the skills so that they can make a real difference in the workplace.

We are encouraging businesses to be environmentally sustainable - and I'm not just talking about re-using towels.

The kind of innovation I'm referring to, structured through our Sustainable Tourism Charter, is the thinking behind such ideas as energy efficient heaters and power generators that are sound-proofed.

After all, if you've taken the effort to travel to a bach situated in a beautiful but isolated spot, the last thing you want is the drone of a generator spoiling your experience.

By developing our industry, building upon our strengths, and targeting our marketing for the biggest impact, I strongly believe that New Zealand will continue to excel in preferred destination polls internationally, despite what is happening in the rest of the world.

We are genuinely delighted to accept the many tourism awards this country has received over the years, but we are not resting on our laurels. Far from it.

The awards, in themselves, are no guarantee of future success. What is needed, we know very well, is a determination to keep improving, to keep innovating, and to ensure the visitor experience remains authentic and high quality.

To finish, I want to thank each of you for your interest in New Zealand. We value the role that the tourism media has to play in taking New Zealand onto the world stage.

I know personally the power of the travel media. In 1994 my business as a river guide was lucky enough to make the front cover of the Lonely Planet guide.

The boost in our business was incredible, and it reinforced to me the value of good media - the way people can see a story or an image and say "I must do that, I must go there".

So, if you can deliver on the inspiration, New Zealand will deliver on the experience.

ENDS

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