In addition to reviewing the year that was, and looking ahead to what's coming up for Japan and Korea, Nick highlighted the opportunity for operators to use newzealand.com to gain more business.
Visitors from both the Japanese and Korean markets were up by 8.8 per cent for the year ended December 2014, a result that Nick says was a great way to finish the year. "In addition, Japan and Korea have both had a strong start to the New Zealand summer season. Holiday arrivals from Japan were up 23.5 per cent in November and 19.2 per cent in December, while the holiday growth over the same period for Korea was 21.5 per cent and 52.4 per cent, compared to the year before.
"We haven't seen these types of increases from these markets for a number of years so this is promising, and I'm confident that by the end of summer both markets will be close to double digit growth."
Koreans are very active travellers, with 15 million outbound travellers last year out of a population of 50 million, and this rate is increasing.
Tourism New Zealand's work to support this growth has included the 'Papa, where are you going?' Korean TV show, which gave New Zealand huge profile when it aired last year. "I believe the interest and growth that we have seen has certainly been bolstered by the visibility New Zealand received from this TV publicity last year," says Nick.
The key segments of focus for Tourism New Zealand in Korea are Group, FIT (free independent travellers) and Premium. Nick says there's a real increase in quality of the groups that partners like Hana Tour and Mode Tour are bringing to New Zealand.
FIT bookings are also on the rise, thanks in part to a strong group of specialist FIT agents that Tourism New Zealand works with in the Korean market. "They are active, niche agents that are very responsive to consumer trends. Some of these agents are working with us on the honeymoon segment, while other agents are focused on the walking and hiking segment - plus we're still seeing growing interest from Koreans who want to travel around New Zealand in campervans."
Japan is a priority two market for Tourism New Zealand and Nick says this market's rising sun is far from set. "The decline we've seen over the last decade has turned and we're now seeing a sustained period of positive growth.
"At the start of the three year strategy for FY14-16, Tourism New Zealand set a target of 90,000 arrivals by the end of FY16 and I'm quite confident we'll pass that milestone midway through FY16, so our goal is well and truly in reach."
Although slightly fewer Japanese travelled abroad in 2014, New Zealand's share of these outbound travellers is on the rise and we are currently outperforming Australia in Japanese arrivals on a share basis.
Japanese preference for New Zealand is also on the rise, thanks in part to the high profile visit from Japanese celebrity figure skater Mao Asada and her sister in 2014. "Over nine million Japanese tuned in to see the sisters enjoy a trip of a lifetime around New Zealand in September, which equated to more than $12 million in estimated advertising value (EAV) and motivated 97 per cent of the viewers to consider a holiday in New Zealand. This was one of more than ten prime time Japanese television shows to visit New Zealand in FY15, with more to come in FY16."
The first ever New Zealand guidebook for Japanese youth, recently supported by Tourism New Zealand, has also helped raise the country's profile. "It's a beautiful book, featuring destinations right across New Zealand over 112 pages. We know we have created something of value because our trade partners are using it as a giveaway for their clients."
In addition to PR work, Tourism New Zealand has also increased investment in 100% Pure New Zealand advertising campaigns, which Nick says is showing great results across social media channels and also traffic on Tourism New Zealand's own digital platforms. "Japan is leading the way in mobile adoption and 51 per cent of Japanese traffic to newzealand.com is now arriving via mobile devices, compared to the global rate of 42 per cent.
It's been a big year in trade in the Japan market, with priority one and two partners engaged to support the dual youth and senior segments. In the last year this has seen our partners invest over two million dollars with us in JV work and we now have a group of 15 company advocates helping promote New Zealand. In addition to this, over 1000 online modules have been completed, more than 800 agents have been trained, more than 100 agents have been hosted on famils and over 1400 agents have attended New Zealand seminars.
"Last year we launched the Individual Famil Programme, supported by Air New Zealand, where we invited 50 agents to come to New Zealand on their own and travel through the country at their own pace. We've had a good response from this, particularly as it allows flexibility for the agents to discover new regions. In addition to running this programme again this year, we have also recently launched a new 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist programme in Japan."
The average commute for a person working in Tokyo is one and a half hours each way on a train, which Nick says offers a great opportunity to turn some of that time spent on mobile devices into "holiday dreaming time".
Japan and Korea are both priority markets for Tourism New Zealand's premium work in Asia. In Japan, Tourism New Zealand has partnered with White Book for two editions that will cover eight premium New Zealand brands across six pages of content.
"The White Book is a very high quality coffee table style book that has a unique distribution process - it's not sold in shops. Eight luxury brands feature together in each edition to tell their stories and then the book is sent out to 20,000 of the brands' VIP clients. We are also working on a famil to bring some of these partner brand influencers to New Zealand so we can explore additional market opportunities."
In Korea, Tourism New Zealand has a strong JV programme in market with four premium agents, supported by Korean Air and Auckland Airport.
What's coming up?
In the year ahead Tourism New Zealand will continue its implementation of the dual segment strategy in Japan, to grow the active boomer segment in both peak and off-peak seasons, as well as its ongoing focus on youth segment preference and conversion, focusing on the autumn season.
In Korea work will continue on aligned JV activity that supports the quality senior segment and the FIT segment. Both markets will also see further developments in the premium segment programme.
Nick's top tip is to use newzealand.com to gain more business from the Japanese and Korean markets. "I am really passionate about newzealand.com as a lead generator for your business. Currently there are 3325 articles on newzealand.com that are written in English by operators, suppliers and customers. Unfortunately we don't enjoy that same coverage in the Japanese or Korean editions, with 48 and 88 articles respectively," says Nick.
"Some of the best content we see uses operator articles to showcase destinations and products. So pick your best content, turn it into an article, translate it into Japanese and Korean and add an image and deal to maximise your referrals."
Nick adds that the Tourism New Zealand teams in Japan and Korea love visitors and are more than happy to assist with sales trips. They also recommend joining a sales mission, such as Tourism New Zealand's Kiwilink event held in Tokyo and Seoul every year in March.