New Zealand as a destination has surely come of age and clubbing it with its counterpart Down Under may not be the most desired combination any more. The destination is getting out of being a combination destination to that of attracting Indian business as a solo attraction. Though undoubtedly honeymooners are the most sought after clientèle by most product suppliers and vendors, the destination is making interesting inroads as an incentive destination as well. Indian FMCGs, cement companies, pharmaceutical establishments have already taken the journey to the region. Mischa Mannix-Opie, regional manger, south and south East Asia, TNZ, who has worked closely with the India market, felt that India is a special market and has shown encouraging growth. The department is constantly working towards upgrading its global specialist programme, increasing the number of KiwiLink India programme and adding two cities to its list. The aim is to also strengthen ties through cricket. However, the focus will continue to bring in the high value Indian tourist into the region.
Trenz 2014 played host to around 260 New Zealand tourism businesses amongst which around 14 players were first time exhibitors with diverse portfolios. From a brewing company to a movie based visitor experience product, to that of boutique hotels and luxury products; they were all part of the buyer seller event. India is definitely considered to be a potential source market for inbound tourism and most sellers are reaching out to the Indian buyers and are also making an effort to understand the Indian clientèle better. Lisa Bond- manager marketing, Whale Watch Kaikoura and Derek Melnick, business development manager, NZone Skydive, have placed faith in the Indian business. Like them a host of tourism suppliers are understanding the demand of the Indian traveller and making room for their requirements. Sharon O’Loughlin of Tourism Dunedin also received an encouraging response from the Indian market. From exploring the steepest street in the world called Baldwin Street to that of visiting the Cadbury world, Indians are ready for all this and more. Loren Heaphy of Nelson Tasman Tourism and Lucii Williams of Destination Coromandel were also excited about the Indian inbound business. From adventure to luxury, from winery trail experiences to that of thermal spring dips the Indian clientèle is ready to explore and experience the place in all forms. Russell Alexander, general manager, Hobbitontours, Matamata, said that they have understood the food requirements right. The attraction has also added dinner evenings from June 2014 which he felt would be popular amongst Indians as well.
Apart from the private sector’s initiative, the government going all out to strengthen tourism in the country. For New Zealand the commitment towards tourism seems rather clear as the country’s Prime Minister John Key also holds the tourism portfolio. He addressed a special gathering at Trenz 2014, highlighting his government’s commitment towards tourism and its future growth plans. This dedication towards tourism seemed to have percolated across levels as the human resource associated with the cause of tourism enhancement seemed to speak the same language. His address clearly stated that all industry stakeholders need to work together. The tourism think tank needs to come up with concrete ideas that can be effectively implemented for a stronger future. The sector has put into action a comprehensive and focused vision titled Tourism 2025, Growing Value Together-Whakatipu Uara Ngatahi (as per the local dialect).
In March 2014, New Zealand’s tourism industry unveiled its goal to contribute US$ 41 billion a year to the New Zealand economy by 2025, which is stated to be up from the present US$ 24 billion figure. Tourism 2025 is a framework to unite New Zealand’s large and diverse tourism industry and ignite strong aspirational economic growth. It is an industry commitment to increase value by working together for the benefit of tourism. Grant Lilly, chairman, Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) reiterated the tourism vision by emphasising the importance of achieving the mentioned target. He said, “Each one needs to work on it and build the business. We need to improve competitiveness, increase volume and value and invest in tourism.” It was also mentioned further, for tourism to grow, international tourism needs to grow at a rate of six per cent year on year and domestic tourism at a rate of four per cent year on year. The vision clearly states that the focus is on value rather than visitor numbers. The tourism department has also laid down five themes, namely – Insight-prioritise insight to drive and track progress; Target- target for value; Visitor Experience – drive value through outstanding visitor experience; Productivity – productivity for profit; and Connectivity- grow sustainable air connectivity. The tourism sector is also clear that growth can happen through the collective effort of both public and private sector. Interestingly the brand vision also takes into account the dissatisfaction feedback from customers as it feels this will help them undo the wrong and offer its visitors a satisfying tourism experience. The tourism sector is also aware that due to its geographic positioning that of being an island nation away from their target markets, improving air connectivity is crucial for its tourism performance. Air New Zealand is considered their crucial partner and together they are focused on developing new air routes and open business in new markets.
“We are optimistic about India,” says Kevin Bowler, chief executive, Tourism New Zealand
India is a very important market for us and has shown consistent growth year on year. There is a natural connection between the countries with the commonwealth links and also a common language. With India we have always worked closely in the field of trade, education and tourism and are always optimistic about this region. The luxury business is rather positive from India and we do focus on the high value visitor. The Indian clientèle is ready to explore and is experimenting with a lot of activities. From adventure to luxury, Indians do it all. From large groups to extended family travel and honeymooners, there is a lot the destination has to offer to each segment. Indians also enjoy shopping and we constantly get feedback regarding shops closing rather early in the region. Indians today are also enjoying wellness experiences in New Zealand. We are also increasing our budget for the India market.
The department is also aware of its challenges especially understanding the fact that the country experiences quiet winters and hence is focused on improving business during off season. Productivity for profitability was clearly stated as part of the plan. The plan is to focus on the MICE business during the off season to keep tourism business on track. The tourism sector also aims to focus on the cruising industry and special, interesting markets, namely golfing, cycling, etc. The plan is also to target the student fraternity and their families to explore tourism in the region.
Working as partners
Apart from witnessing a consortium of tourism buyers and sellers in the product space, the event witnessed active support and participation from Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development and other niche industry stakeholders. Christopher Luxon, CEO, Air New Zealand, spoke about the need to go beyond with ruthless focus. He said that the airline is concentrating on providing the best visitor experience, bringing in new aircraft, and is further investing in fleet expansion. The plan is to also upgrade the airline’s mobile application facility. He further said that the airline needs to be in the right markets, with the right partners and right channels. He also spoke about the importance of highly engaged and skilled staff in the airline business and the role of training and development. When asked about its plans for India, Luxon, emphasised, “We are very happy with our partnership arrangement with Singapore Airlines, servicing our Indian sector. It serves our present requirement keeping the cost factor into account. We believe that collaborations and partnerships are important to make the business viable.” Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand also signed an MoU with a US$ 10 million each commitment toward the promotion of the destination. Adrian Littlewood, chief executive, Auckland Airport, also highlighted the importance of organic growth and the relevance of the Asia market to the business. New Zealand is also preparing itself to offer to the world a new airport by 2019.
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Apart from air, the picture on the ground also seems rather solid. Brett O’Riley, chief executive, Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development highlighted what is in store in terms of events and MICE tourism. The region is committed towards brining in major events. They aim to increase their spend from US$ 2.4 billion in 2010 to US$ 4.23 by 2021. From cruise and yacht tourism to that of setting up more hotels in the region, the organisation is committed to ready Auckland for the future. Developing new attractions, such as a white water park, to that of an amusement park are part of the developmental work. More experience based tourism in the region is something that will be constantly encouraged such as the guided tour zip attractions, scenic flights on the golf courses and also trips to the Waiheke Islands. Speaking specifically on the India market, O’Riley said, “We have a large Indian population in Auckland and Diwali is celebrated as a public festival. We also understand the strong connect with India and their love for cricket. For the ICC World Cup 2015, we have concrete plans in place to attract the right crowd. We aim to target Indian expats and the Indian workforce who are working in companies such as Microsoft, Google, TECH Mahindra, HCL, Wipro, TCS, etc.”
Catherine Bates, director, leverage and legacy, regional engagement, World Cups Office Sports New Zealand, spoke about open spaces, open hearts, open minds, as their theme to attract people into the region for the cricket sporting event. The focus will be on the UK, Australia and India. Martin Snedden, director, NZ Cricket and the ICC and Auckland World Masters Games 2017 also highlighted the importance of sports tourism.