Tourism New Zealand: Road to recovery
As Covid-19 made its way across the world, one of New Zealand’s first lines of defense was to close the borders to international travel. While necessary, this measure had an immediate effect on one of our main industries, tourism, which employs 8.4% of New Zealand’s workforce. We spoke to Tourism New Zealand CEO, Stephen England-Hall, about the impact Covid-19 has had on tourism, and their plan for recovery.
The tourism industry has arguably been the hardest hit throughout Covid-19. Can you talk a bit about what it’s been like working throughout the pandemic?
The impact COVID-19 has had on the tourism sector has been devastating. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, domestic and international tourism generated $40.9 billion for the New Zealand economy, it was our biggest export earner, supporting many of our communities and employing one in eight people.
We’ve been focused on supporting the New Zealand tourism sector through insight gathering and sharing, business advice and marketing activity to appeal to domestic visitors in the short-term, and building brand preference and desire for New Zealand offshore so when we are able to reopen our borders, New Zealand remains top of mind.
What was the thinking behind the latest Tourism NZ domestic campaign – Do Something New NZ?
Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, domestic tourism was worth $23.7 billion to the economy. Kiwi’s also spent around $9 billion a year on overseas holidays, so capturing a portion of this spend while our borders are closed will be important to support the sector’s recovery.
Do something new, New Zealand is about inspiring Kiwis to get out and try something new in their own backyard. The big challenge is getting Kiwis to think about travelling around New Zealand as a holiday. They don’t tend to see travel at home as a holiday and spend like they do when they go overseas. Our domestic activity is about changing this mindset and to showcase all the amazing things New Zealand has on offer.
Tourism NZ has teamed up with a number of government agencies in their latest international campaign. What is the message Tourism NZ is sending to the rest of the world?
We know from the Covid-19 experience that as a nation we are stronger as a collective. At the moment, the world is really seeking aspirational and uplifting content. This campaign aims to connect with our future visitors with heartfelt content that share messages to the world from Kiwis about what’s important to them, connecting global audiences to New Zealand’s values and identity.
While visitors can’t come to New Zealand at the moment, they can still experience New Zealand through our export products, food and beverage and support sectors like tech and investment, building New Zealand’s reputation offshore as a great place to live, study and visit again, when the time is right.
In what ways has the tourism industry banded together to support each other during this time?
The tourism industry has always been collaborative. But through Covid-19, this need for collaboration and connection has been even more important. You can see this in regional operators pivot to promote business to locals. Recently Qualmark, Tourism New Zealand’s quality assurance brand hosted a webinar with Sir John Kirwan to talk about developing resilience and coping through tough times for its members.
We are also working closely with the Regional Tourism Organisations on our campaign activity. While we promote at a national level they come in and play a really important part in promoting their regions at that specific regional level.
What examples have you seen here and globally of innovative tourism given borders are closed?
At Tourism New Zealand, we’re continuing to build relationships with our partners and connect with the world. We are undertaking a lot of engagement with our partners online to remain engaged and we have kicked off a project to see how we can give our trade and media partners the experience of New Zealand while our borders are closed.
We’ve also been experimenting with live streaming and this is having some really great results particularly in China. Recently we also held a live stream Matariki event through our social channels. Around 337,000 people from around the world watched this unique event.
New Zealand is known for its ingenuity, and the world-famous New Zealand company AJ Hackett are offering avatar bungy jumps live through a camera attached to the jumper. While you can’t beat experiencing New Zealand in person – or the thrill of doing a bungy jump yourself, these types of virtual experiences will form a part of how people experience New Zealand in the future.
What message would you like to send to Kiwis as they plan their next holiday?
Kiwis have been fantastic in supporting the tourism sector and the communities that they operate in. My message would be to do some research on sites like newzealand.com and find out what’s on offer. We sometimes can think we know a place pretty well, but I guarantee there is plenty of activities that many Kiwis aren’t even aware of.
What are your hopes for the future of tourism in New Zealand as we come out of this?
As we move through into recovery, tourism in New Zealand is likely to look very different to what it once was. This presents an opportunity to reshape the sector and ensure it enriches our country and people. Right now, Tourism New Zealand alongside other representatives is establishing a Tourism Futures Taskforce, a public-private taskforce that will lead the thinking on the future of tourism in New Zealand.
It will consist of cross-government and tourism sector representatives and will prioritise the current and future issues that will shape and impact tourism, and lead recommendations on further policy and regulatory reform in the sector.
My hope is that we rebuild a stronger more sustainable sector that can withstand future challenges like the ones we are now facing to create a thriving tourism industry.