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Tourism New Zealand to focus on high-quality visitors

René de Monchy, Chief Executive, Tourism New Zealand

TRENZ, New Zealand’s biggest international tourism business event, returned to Ōtautahi Christchurch on May 9-11, after 17 years. On the sidelines of the event, TTJ interacted with René de Monchy, Chief Executive, Tourism New Zealand.

– Sonika Bohra

Aotearoa- New Zealand is a bucket list destination for many travellers and has long had a reputation for outdoor adventure and picturesque landscapes. Whilst the industry has rejuvenated after the impact of COVID, its growth curve has plateaued significantly. Staying on top of travellers’ minds and getting travel numbers back to pre-COVID levels is the quest that Tourism New Zealand is confronted with today.

Pre pandemic, tourism was New Zealand’s top export, contributing NZ$17.2 billion (20 per cent of all exports) and 5 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP at NZ$40.9 billion while directly employing 8.4 per cent of the nation’s workforce, totalling 229,566 people.

“Tourism is an important and integral part of New Zealand’s economy. However, besides enriching the visitors, tourism must enrich the well-being of New Zealanders, contributing more than it takes, creating jobs, restoring nature, enhancing our heritage, building on our national reputation, and also making us proud. At Tourism New Zealand, we support this by influencing, first and foremost, the quality of international visitors. For the long-term benefit of New Zealand, we target visitors who are more likely to positively contribute to regenerative tourism and New Zealand’s culture, nature, society, and economy,” opines Rene.

Keeping in view of the positive impact on the economy, environment, culture, and communities, Tourism New Zealand now works to strategically attract and motivate high-quality visitors from their key markets. “We envision that by 2030, all visitors to New Zealand will be of higher quality and more productive and regenerative tourism will be ensured. It is imperative to note that high-quality visitors go well beyond high net worth and include all types of travellers ranging from those that engage with culture and nature,” asserts Rene.

Addressing regenerative tourism, many visitors support the government’s desire to transition into this system, and tourism operators are increasingly taking a regenerative and sustainable approach. The New Zealand government is also creating industry transformation programmes whilst regional tourism organisations (RTOs) are formulating destination management plans. Their national carrier, Air New Zealand, has a goal of being carbon-zero by 2050. “As a sector, we are presented with an ideal opportunity to lead the way, not only reducing our carbon emissions, but being a world leader in our approach to tourism where it can remain a critical part of our economy, and enrich our home, people, and visitors,” says Rene.

Rene noted that their research signified a growing segment of travellers seeking immersive and meaningful travel, destinations that can simply and authentically demonstrate sustainable practices. “We are committed to playing an important and indispensable role in helping support our sustainable future and are confident of the deliverance of the New Zealand tourism industry in this aspect. For those looking at engaging in a natural environment and experiencing our unique culture, we offer a plethora of opportunities for such deeper realisations. It is something we at Tourism New Zealand will be focusing on to amplify our activity going forward,” informs Rene.

It has been observed that visitors to New Zealand, influenced by the work of the tourism department, either at a consumer or at a trade level, tend to spend more and visit more regions. New Zealand garners higher advocacy after they depart. Rene says, “This aspect is of utmost importance for us. We call that shaping demand, which is very crucial for a niche destination like Aotearoa-New Zealand.”

Also, Tourism New Zealand’s ‘If You Seek’ campaign went live globally last year and has performed strongly to date. Stressing on the success of the campaign, Rene mentions that 92 per cent of active considerers who had seen the campaign have voiced the likelihood to visit New Zealand as an impact of the campaign

As earnest effort shapes many global markets, Tourism New Zealand perceives the challenging times ahead as they are poised to compete fervently amongst other destinations. Rene says, “We continue to inspire and connect with our audiences, build a desire for destination New Zealand to support the recovery. Over the last year, we were particularly focused on Australia and the US in the first instance, but as we look ahead, we will focus on our other markets and broaden the visitor mix against a more resilient and broader portfolio of markets.”

Speaking on the expectation of the Indian market, Rene says, “India is of paramount importance and undoubtedly an important market to us, for now, and also for the future. It is a market of significance, considering the population with an increasing propensity and the ability to travel. We have quite a high Indian diaspora here in New Zealand, which certainly adds to a lot of connectedness. So, as we look ahead, we have high aspirations from India, in the short term and also in the future.”