Increasing visitor value: A challenge for all of us

Most of you will have heard this from me before: getting visitors across the border is one thing - we need them to stay longer and do more while they are here if we are going to make any significant economic change for the industry.

That's why we are looking more closely at the combination of visitor arrivals and stay days when planning our marketing and when reporting back to the industry.

Statistic New Zealand's figures released yesterday confirmed that international visitor arrivals have continued to grow year-on-year, with total arrivals up 3.9 per cent for the year ended April 2012, and holiday arrivals up 2.9 per cent.

However, visitor stay days increased just 0.9 per cent for the same period, representing 50.8 million stay days in New Zealand - a figure that has stayed relatively flat since 2008.
It is clear that there is more work to be done to get people to stay longer and therefore, spend more.

These objectives can only be achieved in partnership with industry which is why we are working closely with RTOs to deliver campaigns that motivate visitors to stay longer and do more. Campaigns like Australian ski - more in every day, or the South Island Road Trip are strategically focused on these goals.

When we talk about stay days, most people immediately think of the China market. Arrivals from China continue to grow at a phenomenal rate and with 18,192 arrivals in April it became our second largest market for the month. However, with a preference for dual destination group tours Chinese holiday arrivals stay an average only 6.2 days, and the median is just 3 days.

This is a key area of focus for us. Over the next few months you will start to hear more about the work we are planning both in-market with travel sellers here in New Zealand to target quality - attracting quality visitors and delivering quality experiences. There is a clear role for industry in this and by working together we expect the focus on quality to help increase both length of stay and visitor spend.

Over in the Western markets, this year will see us increase our activity in the US - elevating to one of our top priority markets alongside Australia and China. Holiday visitors from the US stay on average 14 days.  Our renewed focus coincides with the release of the two Hobbit movies which will be leveraged in our activity over the next two years and the planned arrival of United Airlines. Again we are working alongside key RTOs to ensure there is appropriate product on offer for anyone with an interest in the movies.

France is another long-stay market that will also begin to receive a little more focus alongside our traditional long-haul markets of the UK and Germany. Our activity here will work to maximize the legacy of the RWC 2011 which has seen the market grow since July last year by some 49 per cent.

These are just some of our areas of focus, and later this year the NZ industry will get the chance to give input into our next three-year marketing plan. While I don't expect there to be a complete change in direction, I think this is a great time to have an open mind and consider all the opportunities we have to make a positive contribution to the industry.

Kevin Bowler

Chief Executive