Inspiring Americans to explore New Zealand on two wheels

Last week, we launched a campaign in the US fronted by well-known TV personality Phil Keoghan - with the aim to encourage Americans to take a cycling holiday in New Zealand, promoting the country's diverse and breathtaking cycling landscapes and extensive trail network.

Keoghan has a large following in the States as host of the hit TV show The Amazing Race, which screens in more than 100 countries worldwide, with 9.5 million viewers tuning in for its 2013-14 season in the US alone.

Having just ridden 5400km to retrace the route of the first English-speaking team  in the Tour de France, Keoghan is also a passionate cyclist and proud Kiwi - the ideal person to be encouraging Americans to make New Zealand their next holiday destination. 

We shot the campaign on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and Queenstown Trail - both of which belong to the New Zealand Cycle Trail Network, which has provided Tourism New Zealand with a platform from which to bring the country to life as a unique cycling destination overseas.

The breadth of the trail network - which spans the length of New Zealand - and the fact that cycle tourists often stay late into March, aligns perfectly with our goal to grow shoulder season travel and wider regional spread of visitors. It also allows us to showcase the diversity of New Zealand landscapes and terrain - from the subtropical forests of the far North to the sweeping alpine vistas of Southland.

Accessibility is also a key concept when promoting the trail network and New Zealand cycling in general - the idea that you can immerse yourself in nature on the trails, whilst being just a short distance from a wide range of accommodation and other activities.

Interest in cycling is significant across western markets, and the US is no exception. Alongside Australia and the UK, it contributes the largest volume of cycle tourists to our shores each year. In the year ending December 2014, a total of 14,000 American visitors cycled during their trip to New Zealand.

Our research has identified 8.5 million American active considers who are willing to travel mainly for a cycling-based activity - that's 84 per cent of American active considerers with New Zealand on their shortlist as a cycling destination.

With promotion from someone as popular as Phil Keoghan, we aim to increase preference for New Zealand as a world class cycling destination among active considerers, and motivate those dreaming of a cycling holiday in New Zealand to take the next step and make the booking.

Appointing Keoghan as the face of New Zealand cycling in the US reflects our wider strategy to actively target the international cycling sector as part of our focus on special interest activities, which have the potential to deliver increased value to the tourism industry here.

As with other special interest sectors, cycle tourists stay longer and spend more during their visit compared with other holidaymakers. For the year ending December 2014, the average spend for cycling visitors was NZD $3,900 vs. $2,900 for other visitors.

The campaign will run online and in print from 2 March to 31 May 2015. Print channels are Adventure Cyclist and Afar magazines, and online includes publishers, Google, YouTube and Facebook, as well as the programmatic buying platform AOP and video buying platform BrightRoll, which provide access to multiple publishers targeting a cycling audience.

There has been significant growth in US visitor numbers in recent years, thanks in part to the work undertaken to leverage off the incredible popularity of the Hobbit films. Now the Trilogy has come to an end, the move towards promotion of cycling and other special interest sectors there reflects our shift in focus to capitalise on the attention the films have created for the US visitor market.