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Turning Distance to Advantage – Hon Mark Burton

Hon Mark Burton
5.45pm 10 August 2000 Speech Notes
Turning Distance to Advantage – Economist Conference, Park Royal Hotel Wellington

Ask a traveller about their long haul travel experience - that is, when they've travelled more than six hours by air to reach their destination - and it's quite likely they'll describe it as one of their most significant life experiences.

For most people there is something unique about getting on a plane and travelling to the other side of the world. And New Zealand's place in the world means we are a long haul destination for thousands of people every year. So how can we put New Zealand at the top of their list of long haul destinations? And how can we ensure we are providing the experience these travellers are looking for?

First, we need to define just what it is that they are looking for - and then establish whether we can offer the experience that meets those needs.
Tourism New Zealand, the former Tourism Board, is the government-funded marketing agency. Its challenge is to build an appealing and distinctive identity for New Zealand that stands out in our key international markets and provides compelling reasons for international travellers to choose New Zealand.

Tourism New Zealand and its industry partners face some very specific challenges in persuading overseas visitors to come to New Zealand.

The problem is not a lack of awareness. In-depth research in key markets such as USA, UK and Japan has shown that almost all potential long-haul travellers have heard about New Zealand. They also know we have “beautiful scenery”.

But less than a third of those potential visitors thought they were likely to come here in the next three years, and only 1 to 3% actually visit. When asked why they don’t come, they talk about distance, and the time and cost of getting here.

Research with people who have actually visited New Zealand paints a different picture. They talk very enthusiastically about their experiences, the diversity of the activities available, the warmth and generosity of the people, and the feelings of space and freedom in a stunning physical environment.

Many wished they had planned to stay longer. This shows New Zealand has real potential to meet visitors’ emotional needs for relaxation and for vibrant, exhilarating experiences.

In February this year, Tourism New Zealand received the results of a report commissioned from AC Nielsen on the UK travel market.

It concluded that broader trends in the long-haul travel market are looking very positive for New Zealand as a destination. The world 'feels' as though it is getting smaller and therefore more accessible, there is a constant search for new and different destinations, there is a 'ripple effect' of a search for destinations beyond the 'already done' destinations, and, there is a desire for genuine and authentic travel experiences.
The challenge we face, is to build an appealing and distinctive identity for New Zealand in our key off-shore markets – an identity that stands out from other destinations in the increasingly cluttered and competitive global tourism market.

During the 1990's, Tourism New Zealand’s offshore marketing activities were structured around separate campaigns in each offshore market. In a major change of strategy last year, Tourism New Zealand replaced these with a global campaign “100% Pure New Zealand”.

The campaign message seeks to present a strong, simple statement that is the synthesis of everything we are as a people, as a country and as an experience. It embodies our authenticity, our diversity and celebrates our unique identity. The campaign has been designed to communicate the emotional benefits of a visit to New Zealand rather than merely displaying tourism products and sights.

There is a need to ensure that New Zealand is not just seen as a 'nature only' destination. While recognising New Zealand's strength in its nature and outdoor experiences, it is also important to emphasise that New Zealand is a sophisticated, upmarket 21st Century nation, with its own unique cultural flavour.

Maori culture in particular is seen as unique and authentic, and is often a very positive aspect of New Zealand's appeal as a destination.

We want to communicate the world-class experiences that New Zealand has to offer – modern vibrant cities, vineyards and fine wineries, arts and crafts – a destination where there is much to do.

Tourism New Zealand's marketing campaign is conducted through a variety of mechanisms, including advertising, tourist information, an International Media Programme, trade marketing and support, support for major events, and market research.

Tourism New Zealand is encouraging use of the 100% Pure campaign line by reputable businesses who market New Zealand tourism products internationally.

New Zealand’s profile offshore is also raised by Brand New Zealand, a joint initiative of Tourism New Zealand and Trade New Zealand. Brand New Zealand has launched a new fern that is being developed as New Zealand’s country of origin symbol - like the Canadian maple leaf and the Irish shamrock.

This is an important way of promoting and enhancing New Zealand's cultural identity.

Tourism New Zealand and Trade New Zealand use this fern in all their international marketing activity. The reputation of the fern is protected through a quality assurance programme and registration as a trademark.

Private tourism operators and exporters can apply to use the Brand New Zealand fern on their products and in their promotions, but they must first satisfy quality assurance standards.

Tourism strategy
I want to shift my focus now, from the existing marketing efforts, to how this Government intends to work - in partnership with the industry - to manage and support future tourism development.

The recent growth in tourism has created the impression of big, profitable companies. The reality is very different. The vast majority of the 16,500 businesses that make up the tourism sector in New Zealand are very small, New Zealand-owned businesses, with about 80% employing less than five people. Most have limited capacity and resources for marketing or product development.

For too long the industry has relied on an adhoc approach to planning, management and funding. While this can have some positive outcomes – the famous "kiwi ingenuity" can be very creative in this sector – it can also result in lost opportunities and duplication of effort.

The need for a National Tourism Strategy has been recognised by those in the industry for a long time. I am aware that if a strategy is to work and be relevant, then industry must take a leading role, if not the leading role, in developing it. After all, it is tourism businesses that will create the jobs, make the investments, win the markets and deliver product to the customers.

But there also needs to be a meaningful partnership between the private sector and the public sector. This Government will not run a separate process – I am working with the industry, as are the agencies I am responsible for, on development of the strategy.

Earlier today at the New Zealand Tourism 2000 Conference we announced the membership of the Tourism Strategy Group. This group, chaired by Sky City CEO and Tourism Industry Association chair Evan Davies, will now guide the strategy process.

I have a number of aspirations for the Strategy group. I expect them to address questions such as:

 What are the most effective structures for the industry?
 What are the most appropriate complementary roles of government and industry organisations?
 What does the tourist of the 21st Century demand?
 How should tourist operators, regions and New Zealand as a whole promote products?
 How do we ensure that tourism development is environmentally responsible and sustainable?, and
 How do we ensure that the New Zealand public gets behind tourism development?

The Strategy group is expected to report back early next year with its findings and recommendations. But I can assure you that the Government is not sitting on its hands in the meantime. A number of important tourism initiatives are already under way.

To assist the development of Tourism, we need accurate research and information. That is why the Government is supporting the establishment of a Tourism Research and Forecasting Clearinghouse.

There has been a history of poorly funded and coordinated Tourism research. The Clearinghouse initiative addresses a key structural weakness in the tourism sector. It brings together public and private sector interests to ensure we get a programme of research that meets the needs of users.

A Clearinghouse Council has been appointed, chaired by Sean Murray of Tourism Holdings Limited, to drive the process, with secretariat support from the Office of Tourism and Sport.

The result of this initiative will be the provision of authoritative and credible information, research and forecasts. This information will increase the certainty of investment decisions and should stimulate greater investment flows into the tourism industry.

The Government has also provided funding to support the implementation of an environmental standards programme for the Tourism industry, Green Globe 21.

Tourism operators will be encouraged to write and adhere to environmental policy statements, covering such things as waste disposal and greenhouse gas emissions.

Green Globe is being implemented in conjunction with the Tourism Industry Association – which is well aware of the need to protect New Zealand's greatest tourism asset – the environment.

My policy advice unit, The Office of Tourism and Sport, has been moved from Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Economic Development. Importantly, it will retain its semi-autonomous status, but the move recognises that tourism is a dynamic and key contributor to the country's economic development and well being.

Tourism has a crucial role to play in the Government's regional development policies. The Government is determined to encourage worthy projects, which contribute to regional development, and which come from, and continue to have, the strong backing of local communities.

To that end, I have had the special pleasure of handing over a number of cheques recently, to support projects that reflect that strong local commitment and development potential.

These projects include the Tuatapere Hump Track in Southland, the Central Otago Rail Trail, a permanent home for the Nelson-based Wearable Arts, restoration of the Auckland Ferry SS Toroa, and development of Te Waihou walkway near Putaruru.
The Government has also agreed to double the cap on Working Holiday Visas to 20,000 places. Working Holiday Visas allow people aged between 18 and 30 without children to spend up to a year in New Zealand, and work to supplement their income.

The expansion of the Working Holiday Visa scheme has been welcomed by the tourism industry as another positive development.

Many of the young people who participate establish a lifelong link with New Zealand – they become our "tourism ambassadors" when they return home.

In summary then, my approach, and this government's approach to the Tourism portfolio could be described as more cooperative and consultative than has been the case in recent years.

I am working with a broad section of the industry to grow the tourism industry in a way that is sustainable on four levels: economic, environmental, social and cultural.
I want to enhance the capacity of the tourism industry to sustain and generate wealth. We must protect the environment by identifying and understanding the impact of tourism. We must encourage broad community support for tourism. And we must recognise, respect and promote the uniqueness of New Zealand, its cultures and its people.

To achieve this, central government is determined to be active in working with industry, local government and community partners to develop this exciting and dynamic industry. Then, distance is no disadvantage – indeed, it becomes part of our special appeal.

Thank you again for the invitation to be here this evening, I welcome any questions you may have.


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