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International visitor recovery now well underway

We wrap 2013 and head into the summer season at an incredible pace across the industry.

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International visitor arrivals continue to improve, with total arrivals up 5.9 per cent for the calendar year January - October 2013. What is really positive is that this is being driven by people choosing New Zealand for holiday visits - with total holiday arrivals up 10.2 per cent for the same period.

The China visitor market continues to evolve rapidly, and the introduction of the China Travel Law on 1 October delivered a further anticipated change in visitor mix. The change indicates a shift to a better quality visitor experiences - supporting our strategy to increase the value of the Chinese market to New Zealand. With additional charter flights confirmed over Chinese New Year, we expect to see continued growth in Chinese arrivals and a sustained trend toward mono-New Zealand travel with increasingly better quality itineraries. The new ChinaToolkit website we launched in November alongside The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, will assist this progress, helping New Zealand operators deliver better quality experiences to Chinese visitors.

Alongside what I know is the busiest time of year for the industry, Tourism New Zealand's activity is at an all-time high.  Since the increase in Government funding came into effect on 1 July, we have achieved some key milestones.

In the last six months we have filled a lot of new roles and added 26 new people across the organisation. This has included the expansion of our Business Events and India teams, the establishment of offices in Indonesia and Latin America, and the formation of a new team focussed on the premium segment.

Our new, stronger, presence in the priority 'emerging markets' of India, Indonesia and Latin America, is allowing us to rapidly gear up to target these markets and maximise the potential they show as a source of visitors.  The foundations are now well and truly in place for us to focus our attention on building demand and capturing future growth opportunities to secure a strong, long-term position for New Zealand.

Our digital channels and consumer website - newzealand.com - are at the heart of our marketing activity, and continue to effectively drive preference and connect potential travellers to travel sellers. From January through to November visits to newzealand.com were up a staggering 54 per cent, and referrals to New Zealand operators up 55 per cent.

The release of our first mobile app, Essential New Zealand, has proven to be very successful, with the over 40,000 downloads to date capitalising on the increased use of mobile devices by visitors while in the country.

The continuation of our 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand campaign, and The Book of New Zealand in Los Angeles ahead of the worldwide premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, effectively built on the momentum we are seeing in awareness and preference for New Zealand, which we know stems in part from interest in visiting Middle-earth. 

Our investment in marketing New Zealand's association with the Hobbit Trilogy is already paying off.

In the first half of this year we know that 8.5 per cent of international visitors said The Hobbit had influenced their decision to choose New Zealand.  Arrivals from key target markets for the campaign support this, with holiday arrivals from the USA up 19 per cent for the January - October period against last year.  We are confident this will continue to drive interest in the months to come.

While achieving the above is no mean feat, we won't be resting on our laurels as 2014 approaches.  

Our teams across Asia will be busy leveraging the roll-out of the second Hobbit movie across Asia through February and March. They will also be preparing for some of our biggest in-market trade engagement events starting in January.

100% Pure New Zealand will continue to be rolled out across all markets in early 2014 - tailored market-by-market to maximise the specific triggers that motivate Active Considerers to visit New Zealand. In the US we will launch special interest marketing activity targeting golf and fly-fishing, and a new youth campaign will launch across the western long-haul markets.

In Australia, our 2014 Ski pre-season campaign, a key piece of activity in this market, will launch during February to drive interest of a winter holiday to New Zealand.

Work to leverage major events, including the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup and FIFA U-20 World Cup, will also be undertaken in earnest to ensure we take the attention they will attract to tell our wider destination New Zealand story.

We look forward to working with you to continue to build on the momentum we have generated this year and keeping you updated with our progress. But for now, I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year with family and friends.

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Kevin Bowler

Chief Executive