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Speech: Mark Burton to Fiordland Tourism Awards

Fiordland Tourism Awards

Speech notes for Mark Burton:

Good evening. I’m really pleased to be here at the Fiordland Tourism Awards and to have the opportunity to celebrate excellence in the Fiordland tourism industry.

Congratulations to all the participants here tonight. Tonight, whether you won an award or not, each of you has a right to be proud of your achievements.

(Optional Material begins)

I want to extend a special welcome to some of the many people who have contributed to the success of Fiordland’s booming tourism industry: Her Worship the Mayor, Frana Cardno; perhaps the Souths most un-relenting advocate! Chief Executive of Southland District Council, Michael Ross; Lisa and Shevaun of Destination Fiordland; and of course each and every tourism operator who has worked so hard to make regional tourism a success

And I would also like to particularly thank and congratulate the Fiordland Promotions Association. This group of volunteers donate their time, expertise and enthusiasm to assist the development of the Fiordland tourism industry, and continue to support this event each year.

I would also like to acknowledge Jan Wilson for her contribution to the development of Fiordland’s tourism industry. Through her roles in both the Fiordland Promotions Association and in Destination Fiordland, Jan has gone well above and beyond the call of duty, and I am sure you all join me in thanking Jan for her work. (OPTIONAL MATERIAL ENDS)

Tonight is about celebrating excellence in tourism. And after the roller-coaster ride we’ve been on over the past 12 months, I think the entire industry deserves to celebrate.

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Until September of last year, I was able to be openly and unreservedly positive about New Zealand’s tourism industry. Our performance and growth were impressive, numbers were headed towards an all-time high, and the industry’s potential seemed almost limitless.

Then, overnight, the events of September 11 changed that outlook completely. The world looked set to stay at home forever. Combined with the uncertainty surrounding the future of Air New Zealand, the immediate picture potentially looked pretty bleak.

At the time, some people were even predicting that the tourism markets might never fully recover.

New Zealand certainly did suffer a downturn along with the rest of the world. In the last quarter of 2001, visitor arrivals were significantly down, and no one really knew what 2002 would bring.

It was an uncertain time throughout the sector. But a lot can happen in a year.

By January, unlike most other global destinations, we were back onto a growth path, and our visitor numbers and expenditure have remained positive throughout 2002; with only a small dip in the days running up to September 11, when it was inevitable that many travellers would be cautious about the first aniversary of those terrible events.

All in all, it’s an enviable position to be in, particularly when compared to our trans-Tasman neighbours.

Earlier this month, I hosted my Australian Federal and State counterparts at the annual Australia/New Zealand Tourism Ministers Council meeting in Auckland. And although we were reporting a very positive outlook, the Australian market still looks relatively grim.

Visitor arrivals to Australia are down nearly 10 percent for the year. The events of September 11, combined with a weak global economy and the collapse of Ansett Australia, have cost Australia around $2 billion in inbound tourism income and up to 12,000 jobs.

In contrast, however, our story couldn’t be more different. In the first six months of 2002, international arrivals increased by almost 5%. Visitor days were up almost 14% and visitor expenditure was up almost 15%.

I certainly don’t make these comparisons in order to gloat. On the contrary – there is no room for complacancy or arrogance. But I do use them to illustrate, at least in part, the very tangible benefits of New Zealand being able to mobilise swift, well-coordinated crisis management.

In the period immediately following September 11, key tourism sector representatives worked tirelessly with the Government, under the co-ordination of Tourism New Zealand, to carefully promote New Zealand’s global reputation as a safe, friendly tourism destination.

This collaberation was also critical in ensuring that consistent, calm assessment of the emerging domestic and international situation was communicated.

Because we had already collectively worked together, particularly on the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010, we were able to employ an effective, efficient use of resources in a time of serious challenge.

I congratulate the entire tourism sector for this—our rapid recovery is a credit to you all.

The Strategy also underlies a co-ordinated approach to sustainability, which is in some ways an even more important issue. We all need to work together to insure ourselves against future short-term shocks and capitalise on New Zealand’s full potential as a tourist destination.

One of my main goals as Minister of Tourism is to promote the development of New Zealand as a year-round choice for visitors, where tourists see us not only as a place for great skiing, jetboating and bungee jumping – as indeed we are; but also as a sophisticated destination rich in opportunities for unique cultural and arts experiences.

Over the past few years Tourism New Zealand has been working hard to broaden this image. I believe we should be known as much for our culture and our people as we are for our landscape and adventure tourism.

And it’s happening.

Some of our most unique cultural events are being promoted internationally by Tourism New Zealand. Events such as the Wild Foods Festival, the International Festival of the Arts, the World of Wearable Arts Awards, Pacifica, Masterclass Wine and Food, and the L’Oreal New Zealand Fashion week, are all being showcased overseas, and the world’s perception of New Zealand is changing.

This year, we have two important opportunities to market ourselves to the world: the America’s Cup and the release of the second Lord of the Rings film.

Both of these events will result in increased attention on the whole of New Zealand, and it is vital for both government and the industry to take full advantage of them. This is an unparalleled opportunity to show the world just how unique New Zealand is. I know that as industry leaders, you will make the most of it.

Capitalising on these kinds of opportunities strongly reflects Strategy 2010’s vision. The Strategy belongs to the entire industry. It was created in partnership with the tourism sector, and its long-term success will rely on industry-led initiatives.

We all stand to benefit from a year-round tourism market that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable—I think we’d all agree to that. But we have to focus on finding practical ways to tackle some of the weightier issues outlined in the Strategy.

The first steps are already in place. The government has established the Ministry of Tourism and allocated substantial funding to the Visitor Information Network and Qualmark—all important steps to enhance the quality of tourism advice and visitor experience.

However if we are going to really address sustainability, we need to look at a variety of issues and initiatives. One of the current major issues is that of development and maintenance of infrastructural services. This is especially important for local governments and communities. As visitor numbers increase, so does the pressure on regional and local facilities.

Although regional tourism benefits local communities, local authorities may feel at times that they are unable to balance these gains against the needs of residents and local industries.

This morning, I attended the opening of a tourism symposium, organised by Local Government New Zealand and being held in Christchurch over the next day and a half. This event is a great opportunity to work through some of these issues and create practical strategies to manage them.

The government is also aware of the importance of this issue, and we are commited to playing our part in continuing to develop policies to address infrastructure issues at a national level.

Now more than ever, the government’s tourism agencies are committed to maximizing the industry’s success. The Ministry of Tourism and Tourism New Zealand are working closely with industry stakeholders to keep adding value to the sector.

Tourism is a vital part of the New Zealand economy, and the importance of creating sustainable growth in the industry cannot be overstated. Nationally, tourism is responsible for 10% of our gross domestic product, one in ten jobs and over 15,000 tourism businesses throughout New Zealand.

Regionally, domestic tourism is the backbone of the industry. In 2001, 50 million domestic visitor nights were spent in New Zealand, adding $4.3 billion to our economy. By 2008, this is expected to grow to $5.3 billion.

The latest tourism forecast released by the Tourism Research Council predicts an even brighter future for the industry. Projections indicate that international visitor arrivals will increase by 6% per year to 2008. Even better news for that key indicator – yield is that those visitors will stay longer and spend more.

In terms of your own region, Southland will be enjoying its fair share of that growth. The domestic market is growing fast, and we can look forward to an increase of 22% in domestic spend by 2008.

Even greater rewards may be gained from the international market, where we can expect overseas visitors to increase their spend by 72% in the same timeframe.

Southland’s key international markets should also continue to show signs of strong growth, with inbounds from Australia predicted to be up by 10% by 2008 and the United Kingdom market up by 9.5%.

As local operators, you are fortunate to be able to work with some of New Zealand’s most outstanding tourism products. With some of the finest scenery in the world, recreational activities that appeal to every taste, and of course some of the most hospitable people in New Zealand’s future is bright indeed. Even the famous sandfly has novelty appeal!

New Zealanders all know that our country is one of the best in the world. We offer visitors an unparalleled natural environment, the uniqueness of our Maori culture, a vibrant, sophisticated New Zealand heritage, and the reputation of our warm, friendly people.

These qualities are what bring visitors to New Zealand. It is absolutely essential that their experiences here be world class.

By simply encouraging more visitors in peak season, we risk increasing the pressure on our environment, be it natural, built, cultural or social. Increasing visitor numbers is important, but it is even more important to encourage travellers to visit at different times of the year, to stay longer, to spend more and to experience a wider range of products.

If we are going to transform New Zealand into the kind of year-round, highly sought after destination envisioned by Strategy 2010, we must brand ourselves with excellence—excellence in product, infrastructure, services, events and culture.

I said at the start of my speech that we were here to celebrate excellence in Fiordland’s tourism industry. My challenge to you is not only to celebrate you excellence thus far, but to turn your attention towards becoming a model of excellence for New Zealand’s entire tourism market.

Thank you again for inviting me to be a part of these awards. I wish you all the best for the coming year and know you will make the most of the opportunities that year will bring.

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