Distribution Channels - United States

Last Updated on: 14 November 2012

New Zealand's target market in the US uses guide books and the Internet as key research and planning tools. However, travel agents continue to have more influence on travel decisions in the US than other markets. US travellers tend to book close to arrival.

The way people research and book travel has changed in the last five years. Better access to broadband internet and the growth of e-commerce have been major factors behind this shift in behaviour.

Tourism New Zealand has conducted research into the way consumers from our target market research and book travel in order to ensure the most effective channel strategy. The research surveyed travellers from Australia, the UK, US and Germany. Over 200 surveys were conducted with those who visited New Zealand during November and December 2008.

It should be noted that since the research was undertaken, industry feedback suggests that visitors are now booking later because of the economic downturn that hit in late 2008 and an increase in special deals on last-minute travel.

How US visitors plan and book travel

Despite being a long-haul market for New Zealand, visitors from the US tend to book travel relatively close to time of arrival, around one to three months before arrival. The exception is cruise travelers who tend to book early - up to 280 days prior to travel. The cruise season runs from October to April and cruise travellers make up 27 per cent of the US market.

Tourism New Zealand's target market in the US has multiple ways of going through the process of research and of booking holidays.

US travellers are the heaviest users of guide books to research holiday destinations and they tend to use the internet as the key planning tool. When it comes to booking, they are most likely to use provider websites, though they do tend to only book familiar international destinations online.

The use of online travel agents (OTAs), such as www.expedia.com and www.orbitz.com, is growing as Americans become more confident researching and booking holidays online. This is particularly true with regard to booking flights.

Industry feedback suggests that the influence of 'on-the-ground' travel agents is higher in the US than in other markets, primarily because of the perception of this group as 'experts'  and the level of personal and customised service they provide.  This is especially the case for more specialised travel or when the traveller doesn't know much about the destination.  Travel agents are likely to remain an important booking channel for the immediate future.

Once in New Zealand, travellers are also very likely to visit operators and i-SITE visitor centres to find out more information and book.

As with other markets, booking of activities is done largely after arrival in New Zealand, except in cases where pre-booking is recommended. In this case, bookings will be made directly through a travel agent.

Read an overview of the research

Read more about the US in the online market guide