Christchurch tourism: Getting the Balance Right

Regular readers of The Press will recall an article last Saturday that posed a critical question: Has the Garden City been cast adrift by the national tourism marketing body?

As the Chief Executive of that national tourism marketing body, Tourism New Zealand, the answer is an emphatic no: Tourism New Zealand has worked, and continues to work, closely with Christchurch Canterbury Tourism (CCT), Christchurch International Airport, and other South Island Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) and operators.

Tourism New Zealand is continuing to promote Christchurch as the primary gateway to the South Island, Canterbury as a region, and the range of unique experiences that can be enjoyed in the South Island.

We concentrate a lot of our marketing investments in Australia where we ran a large scale campaign promoting the South Island as a premier road trip destination last summer. This was done in conjunction with tourism operators in the South Island, travel sellers in Australia, and of course RTOs including CCT. Since February 2012 the priority for our marketing investment in Australia has been on promoting winter holidays with a focus on skiing/boarding.  Once again, these campaigns have been developed and funded through partnerships with regional tourism organisations, including CCT, and the ski industry.

Tourism New Zealand is supportive of CCT's current promotional campaign in Australia and is presently engaged in discussions about further funding for the campaign.

In coming months we will promote the region again, with our second South Island Road Trips campaign launching early in 2013.  Later in 2013, more investment will be applied to Ski 2013 activity, as we continue to invest alongside CCT, other agencies and the broader travel industry, in the South Island.

As well as advertising campaigns, just two weeks ago, Christchurch Canterbury Tourism joined Tourism New Zealand at Kiwilink India - one of Tourism New Zealand's largest trade training events of the year.  At Kiwilink, CCT, alongside others from New Zealand, were given the opportunity to educate some 140 of the most influential Indian travel sellers about New Zealand's regions and products during two days of workshops held in New Delhi and Mumbai. 

The Aoraki Mount Cook regional tourism organisation represented the Canterbury region on the Tourism New Zealand stand at NATAS - last weekend's consumer travel show in Singapore attended by around 60,000 people.

These are just two of the many trade events we run over the course of the year, where the attractions of Christchurch and Canterbury are promoted alongside other regions in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.

Alongside campaign and off-shore training activities, Tourism New Zealand continues to fund travel trade familiarisation trips (by bringing overseas travel sellers to New Zealand) where we frequently include Christchurch and Canterbury in the itinerary.  This ensures travel sellers have a first-hand appreciation of the city, its recovery programme, and the current situation with visitor attractions. 

It's not just travel trade Tourism New Zealand bring to Christchurch on a regular basis; our international media programme continues to bring journalists to the city and region as well.  This helps us ensure Christchurch and Canterbury are promoted through international media channels, getting messages to potential visitors about what there is to do in and around the city and encouraging people to come to the South Island and ensure they don't miss out on visiting Christchurch while they're here.

Tourism New Zealand is also actively engaged in the conference market and has assisted two recent bids that Christchurch city has won with our Conference Assistance Programme.

With high levels of international advertising campaign investment, overseas travel trade and media education, and assistance with conference bids, there can be no credible questioning of Tourism New Zealand's support for Christchurch and Canterbury as suggested by the Press last weekend.

Looking further ahead, we see a growing need to promote the city of Christchurch as a destination in itself.  This need will develop as additional accommodation becomes available, such as the IBIS Hotel opening shortly, more entertainment options come on stream, and more central city visitor attractions open for business.

The weight of this promotion needs to be carefully balanced with the arrival and availability of new visitor infrastructure.  We think it is important that careful thought is given to not allowing the promotion of the city as a destination to get out of sync with its ability to meet the needs and desires of international visitors. 

I am confident that we are well on the way towards more positive change for the Christchurch and Canterbury tourism sector.  Part of this journey is the redevelopment of visitor infrastructure, and part of this is promotion of the South Island, Canterbury, and ultimately Christchurch.  We need to get the balance right. Tourism New Zealand is and will remain a supportive partner for the city and wider region.

Kevin Bowler

Chief Executive