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Counter-COVID-19 Measures Essential for Kiwi Tourism

Counter-COVID-19 Measures Essential for Success of Kiwi Tourism Operators

Research by business consulting company, Rutherford, showed 80% of Kiwis surveyed are worried about contracting COVID-19 while holidaying domestically

The closure of New Zealand’s borders due to COVID-19 has been a knife which cuts both ways, shredding the inbound tourism economy literally overnight while simultaneously slicing through our international travel plans for the foreseeable future.

Just how our domestic tourism market in this new era might look has been the basis of a recent survey commissioned by business consultants, Rutherford. Head of insights and experimentation Gregg Franco says the results from its 2020 Domestic Tourism Survey have been very revealing, including that Kiwis are worried about contracting COVID-19 while holidaying in New Zealand.

“A staggering 72% of respondents indicated that they would be trading in their international holidays for domestic itineraries over the next six to twelve months,” he notes, “and a similar percentage of respondents who were planning to holiday both in New Zealand and abroad have indicated that they expect to spend more money on their New Zealand holidays while overseas travel is banned.”

However, just over 80% of those surveyed said that they were ‘slightly to completely worried’ about contracting COVID-19 while holidaying within New Zealand. Although concerns around domestic travel are lower than for international travel (which sits at almost 85% by comparison), this fear of a second wave of COVID-19, particularly for those aged 35-plus, could prove to be the fly in the ointment for the domestic tourism industry in New Zealand.

Rutherford CEO, Graham Richie, says it is therefore vital that tourism and hospitality operators pay careful consideration to the ‘cost of confidence’ when strategising their approach to attracting domestic tourists.

“Previously, tourists had to weigh up risk as a factor in the more adventurous activities that New Zealand was popular for – sky-diving, bungy jumping, ziplining, etc. But now, simply choosing to go on a holiday has risk attached. Businesses will need to demonstrate that every possible step has been taken to protect their guests’ or customers’ safety and wellbeing, if they are to succeed.”

Richie says he expects that tourism and hospitality operators will start to field many more queries about how their businesses are ensuring their customers' health and safety.

“It will be important to communicate these measures over digital channels and quickly train staff to adhere to them. You can guarantee that through social media and word of mouth, those who are doing it well – and those who aren’t – will quickly be identified and publicised," Richie adds.

Rutherford’s research also revealed that when holidaying in New Zealand, currently around one-third are mostly visiting friends and relatives. Franco says that around 16% prefer to camp or stay in a bach, and close to 40% choose to holiday like overseas tourists, staying in hotel- or motel-style accommodation and engaging in a range of tourist activities.

“We were somewhat surprised to discover that, contrary to popular belief, our respondents were already taking holidays almost twice as often in New Zealand as overseas – even before COVID-19.

“However, the number of Kiwis behaving like international tourists has the potential to increase significantly – if the price is right,” Franco adds.

In other words, there is an expectation (or at least an anticipation of) what Franco describes as a “Kiwi discount”.

“Kiwis have indicated that they are happy to behave like tourists if the price is right – they are both motivated and limited by price, and more importantly, by perceived value. Our research indicates that ‘mates’ rates’ will play an important role over the next six to twelve months in encouraging New Zealanders to spend up on domestic tourism versus their previous behaviour of staying at a familiar destination and engaging in familiar activities,” he explains.

So, which domestic destinations are on the radar for New Zealanders this year?

Franco says respondents indicated the most popular destinations so far are the same ones that have traditionally been favoured by international visitors. Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, and the South Island in general were the top four destinations for those who had already made the decision.

“Interestingly, almost half of the respondents who were planning to go abroad are still undecided on where to go in New Zealand, which represents a massive opportunity for local operators and tourism bodies to capture their imagination,” he adds. “As a nation, Kiwis pride themselves on their willingness to get off the beaten track and seek out those hidden gems, favouring meaningful interaction over pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all experiences. But remember, the real winners will be those tourism and hospitality operators that place safety and customer confidence first and foremost.”

The full results can be accessed here.

About Rutherford

Named out of respect for one of New Zealand’s greatest thinkers, Lord Ernest Rutherford, Rutherford is a company that is built on helping New Zealand prepare for the new world. While COVID-19 has seen them adapt to produce fascinating insights into what New Zealanders are thinking and feeling right now, they are also working on data that enables them to seek solutions for our country’s change makers and leaders, to questions that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Dr. Gregg Franco is Rutherford’s Head of Insights and Experimentation. Gregg is an experimental psychologist who applies this rigorous and creative approach to the generation of confident, actionable insights. His doctoral thesis is on the elements of a person’s experience that colours most how they make judgements and decisions. In his corporate career, he has adapted the scientific method to facilitate research into customer experience and digital behaviours, which he uses to allow businesses to maximise their effectiveness.

Rutherford’s CEO, Graham Richie, was once described by US Immigration as an “Alien of extraordinary ability”. He has had close to 30 years strategy experience, having lived and worked in Auckland, Sydney, Milan, and Boston. Graham has led strategy on everything from an e-commerce start-up, to America’s biggest financial institution – Bank of America.

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