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Burton Address to Opening of Japan & NZ Symposium


Burton Address to Opening of Japan and New Zealand Symposium on Tourism and Cross-Cultural Exchange

Konichiwa and a warm welcome to you all, especially to Matsumoto-san, Japan’s Ambassador to New Zealand, and our other distinguished guests.

Thank you for inviting me here today to address the opening of this Japan-NZ Symposium on Tourism and Cross-Cultural Exchange. In March of this year, I was privileged to speak at the initial New Zealand/Japan Symposium on Tourism.

Although that event was extremely successful and resulted in a great deal of worthwhile discussion, there is still much to learn about this important relationship. Today’s Symposium will focus on the cultural aspects of Japan-New Zealand tourism, including the focus on education as a key component of tourism and cross-cultural exchange.

Cross-cultural exchange between our two countries happens at a multitude of levels. From the formal visits of Ministers, to our 43 sister districts and cities, to exchanges such as the Japan Karate Association, of which I am the New Zealand president.

Indeed, earlier this year, the New Zealand Government recognised Professor Shunsuke Takahashi of Tokyo with a New Zealand honour for his more than a quarter century of contribution to Japan Karate in New Zealand.

Tourism is one of the main ways our two countries learn about each other.

I know you are well aware of tourism’s importance to the New Zealand economy. Tourism is responsible for 10% of our gross domestic product, one in ten jobs and over 15,000 tourism businesses throughout New Zealand. It is also one of our largest earners of foreign exchange

Within this flourishing market, we cannot over-emphasise the scale and value of Japanese visitors to our tourism sector. Japan has consistently remained our fourth largest market in terms of visitor arrivals, with 152,000 visitors in the year to the end of September.

Forecasts predict that Japan will become even more important to our tourism market in the future. By 2008, it is estimated that visitors from Japan will:

Increase in number to around 213,000 – this is annual average growth of 5.2%. Stay longer – averaging just over 18 days each. At the moment the average stay is nearly 17 days. And spend more, increasing from $640 million in 2001 to around $1.2 billion by 2008. That is a huge contribution to New Zealand’s economy.

Clearly, it is essential for New Zealand’s tourism sector to understand and appreciate Japanese culture in order to identify and deliver on the needs and wants of Japanese visitors.

After all, Japanese visitors come from a variety of backgrounds, and they don’t all want the same things. Tourism New Zealand’s market research has helped us to identify our key markets in Japan and, as a result, how to work to endeavour to provide the kind of experiences desirable to those markets. Knowing what visitors enjoy, where they like to stay and how they like to travel, is essential to ensure we deliver on New Zealand’s marketing promise.

For example, we know that the ‘silver market’ visitors aged over 50 make up 37% of our visitors from Japan at the moment. These guests enjoy visits that feature nature, culture, history, local food and wine, short walks and garden visits.

This type of information helps New Zealand tourism operators target the right clients, provide better service, and ensure that they have the best possible experience.

A further 10% of New Zealand’s Japanese visitors come from the education market. These visitors are also highly valued. They tend to have a longer than average stay, and often encourage their friends and family to visit while they are here. In addition, student arrivals are not concentrated solely in the peak season months. This enables a better spread of visitors year-round, contributing to the sustainability of the tourism industry and our environment.

All of our visitors have different needs and expectations of their time in New Zealand, whether they are here on holiday or business, to study or to visit their friends and relations. Your discussions here today are a vital part of understanding those needs and creating strategies to meet (and, hopefully, exceed!) expectations.

As I discussed at the Symposium in March, the development of tourism between Japan and New Zealand has been restricted at times by lack of air capacity,. I am delighted by Air New Zealand’s recent announcement of an increase in capacity of 13% for this summer. In April, daily services between Auckland and Tokyo were introduced. Services to and from Osaka have also been increased, and services to and from Nagoya will be increased this month.

Air New Zealand’s strong commitment to the Japanese market mirrors the high level of commitment found throughout New Zealand’s tourism sector as a whole. I would welcome further initiatives to increase capacity and landing rights and to further liberalise the air services agreement (where appropriate) between our countries.

In our current world climate, safety and security are key considerations when deciding on an international destination. Following the tragic events of September 11 last year, tourist travel reduced around the world.

New Zealand had a notable reduction in Japanese visitors. Through a variety of initiatives involving the Government, Tourism New Zealand, and New Zealand industries, working closely with Japanese business partners and Air New Zealand, we undertook to reinforce awareness of New Zealand as a safe and peaceful destination among prospective Japanese visitors.

This work is continuing.

These initiatives have been very successful in stimulating a recovery in the market, and growth in visitor numbers now matches pre-September 11 levels.

So, it is my strong view that at times of such tension, events like today’s Symposium become even more important. Education, understanding and the building of strong, cross-cultural links—all are vital if we are to promote positive and peaceful relations between peoples and nations. Tourism can help to achieve this.

I extend my congratulations to the Embassy of Japan and the Asian Studies Institute at Victoria University for your commitment in holding this Symposium. I am sure participants can anticipate some lively and informative debate, and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of today’s discussions.

Thank you.


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