While attending AIME 2019 in Melbourne, Travel Weekly caught up with Tourism New Zealand’s general manager for Australia, Andrew Waddel, over a delicious Kiwi breakfast.
What is the key focus for Tourism New Zealand as a destination in 2019 from both a leisure and corporate travel point of view?
We’re super-excited about telling the story of New Zealand as a destination for both holiday and for business. At the heart of this story is that despite being close neighbours [with Australia], we’re worlds apart. New Zealand’s easy to get to (being just over a three-hour flight away), has great air connectivity, a competitive trans-Tasman market and is an affordable destination. At the same time, the visitor gets a very unique experience compared to other Australian domestic destinations, especially when you encounter New Zealand’s people and place.
For both business and holiday travel, what is the same is New Zealand’s unique hospitality, and this is a key focus in 2019. New Zealanders have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming, which comes from the indigenous value called manaakitanga. It is what all New Zealanders share – extending respect and hospitality to visitors. Loosely translated as hospitality, manaakitanga plays a key role in Māori society and inspires the New Zealand visitor experience – summing up the act of welcoming and sharing. A simple example of this is hosting the breakfast at AIME with friends, partners and buyers alike (see below photos). The focus was on the food, the experience and the people attending, all who arrived as visitors and left as whanau, or family. It was evident in the fact all returned to our stand later in the day to chat further, some to enjoy a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and cheese to reflect on a great day.
What is the challenges Tourism New Zealand faces over the next 12 months and beyond?
We’re aware of some potential headwinds in the next 12 months, whether they be from the dynamic political and economic challenges, through to pressures on Australian consumer and business spending. We like to turn headwinds into tailwinds, and there are many consumer and travel trends that are swinging in our favour, both from an industry and New Zealand destination perspective. We know that travellers are looking for a range of experiences and diversity of culture and when they are choosing their destination of choice they want proximity and value. As a short-haul destination, New Zealand is set to benefit. Australians are taking more frequent holiday and business trips, and we are well-placed to get a greater share of Australian domestic and outbound travel and spend.
While it is going to be fiercely competitive, it has always been, and that excites us. New Zealand is a place that’s innovative and progressive, and we enjoy unlocking possibilities through the unique talent we have, the stories as can share and the strength of partnerships we have. Combining this means we regularly punch above our weight and make our mark on the leisure and business marketplace. The challenge continues to motivate us, and as we are easy and enjoyable to work with our partners are motivated as well.
New Zealand is renowned for its scientific innovation and research, and is increasingly becoming recognised as a preferred location for scientific conferences and business events with superb service and support, world-leading knowledge hubs, and one-of-a-kind locations that incorporate business facilities, culture, entertainment, and cuisine.
As an example, Tourism New Zealand has helped New Zealand’s science community to secure 112 science-related conferences, adding $138 million to the economy. Several of these conferences have never been held in the Southern Hemisphere before. We are replicating this success across many different sectors and categories.
What does the travel industry need to do a better job of?
So much of what we do is about getting people to travel and the activities they book on the ground. What is clear is that consumers want so much more from their travel and from a destination. They want an immersive experience, with deep human connections that leaves a positive mark on themselves and the destination. The industry has a focus on generating a vibrant travel market, and it also has a responsibility to ensure the visitor experience and community impacted is prioritised in a way that enriches everyone and benefits the next generation.
Recently, New Zealand’s tourism industry launched a major initiative – an international visitor pledge, inviting visitors to care for its land and environment.
The initiative, Tiaki Promise, encourages visitors to experience New Zealand in a way that keeps them safe, protects the natural environment, respects all cultures and preserves the country for future generations. The joint venture between the public and private sectors includes Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand, the Department of Conservation, Local Government New Zealand, New Zealand Māori Tourism, Tourism Holdings, and Tourism Industry Aotearoa partnering to roll out the visitor pledge.
What is Tourism New Zealand’s biggest opportunity?
The Australian corporate and association markets remain a key focus for Tourism New Zealand in 2019. There is great potential to grow the value of the New Zealand business events sector. Hosting a conference in New Zealand is as easy as hosting it at home in Australia due to ease of connectivity, and a key focus of our work this year will be around educating the Australian market on this.
From a leisure point of view, the biggest opportunity for trans-Tasman travellers is our ‘ski campaign’ – a winter holiday in New Zealand offers the benefit of close proximity and easy access to other adventure and social activities. We already know about this sector that ski visitors provide a tourism boost in winter, particularly to the South Island and tend to come back, with a 54 per cent return rate.