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The work never stops for a tourism ambassador

As November rolls around and the evenings are getting warmer - it is great to be able to indulge in the things that make New Zealand the amazing place that it is – yes, BBQ season is now upon is!

That means it’s also time to start practising your lines for the inevitable questions from friends posed over a beer, like “surely we’ve got enough tourists already’ or ‘did you see the headline about the tourist who….’ Well, you can imagine the rest.

Having experienced a few of these conversations already, my advice to everyone is to embrace the opportunity to let everyone know just how valuable our industry really is. One of the interesting points our Mood of the Nation survey tells us is that although most people consider tourism as a valuable part of our economy, very few know just how valuable.

Which means each BBQ conversation is in fact our chance to fly the flag for the industry and remind people how tourism can make New Zealand a better place for kiwis.  It is one of New Zealand’s biggest growth opportunities; the industry drives one in ten jobs and one in five export dollars. But perhaps more tangible to our friends and family is that it also brings more events to town, enables more cafes, restaurants and retail stores to keep trading and it also means lower airfares for everyone!

If we need a reminder about the importance of tourism to local economies, then Kaikoura has to be it. It’s a year this month since the 7.8 earthquake and nowhere demonstrates more graphically what happens when a place that’s heavily reliant on tourism is, effectively, put out of action.  

The Kaikoura community has seized every opportunity to keep Kaikoura on the map through their worst winter.  The America’s Cup visited town, the Canterbury University students chipped in to help and the famous Whale Watch tours continued, albeit at reduced capacity.  The good news is that the vast majority of tourism activities, retail, services and accommodation are all back in operation. 

The Kaikoura community have identified new tourism products and just last month Tourism New Zealand took a mega famil there with agents enjoying the new coastline by kayak. The new marina opens in a couple of weeks’ time and State highway 1 from Picton will be open by Christmas.

I bet every Kaikoura resident will be flying the tourism flag this summer!

BBQ conversation is also an opportunity to highlight the efforts being made across the industry to address the things that concern our communities the most. The Tourism Infrastructure Fund is specifically set up to address problems such as lack of toilets and car parking and Tourism New Zealand’s own efforts to drive regional dispersal are helping move the visitor to some of our lesser visited regions.

While we can't blame the challenges of infrastructure or environment on the visitor, we can help to shape the visitor economy to ensure it makes New Zealand better. For me, it comes down to three things:

  • Shaping demand: world-class destination marketing to influence visitors
  • Shaping supply: using our insight and leadership to influence industry & government
  • Shaping investment: targeting the right customers and markets, today and tomorrow

We are clear on what we need to do and why. Getting ever better at it, is something that will be our priority for Tourism New Zealand as we begin our planning for FY19. It’s about looking at how we can build on our current strategy to attract high value visitors to travel to more regions with a particular focus on shoulder season travel.  

So I for one will welcome those summer BBQ conversations and will proudly wave the flag as a tourism ambassador. It has to be better than talking politics!   

This article first appeared in Inside Tourism