Looking back on 2014

It's hard to believe that 2014 is nearly behind us. It has been an incredibly busy year at Tourism New Zealand and I am confident that the summer ahead will be a spectacular one.

I'm just back from two weeks offshore and was in London for the global premiere of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, the third and final film in the Trilogy. Our strategy to use the third largest movie franchise ever, and position New Zealand as the home of Middle-earth, has easily been our largest, and most successful piece of work in recent memory.

The hype and magnitude in London really demonstrated that these films are a big deal on the global stage and over the last 15 years New Zealand has successfully navigated itself right into the heart of it connecting Middle-earth with New Zealand through the combined efforts of Air New Zealand, Hobbiton, and ourselves.

A project of this scale hasn't been undertaken lightly and has touched not only all of our business, but many of yours and will be felt throughout the country for years to come - the establishment of Middle-earth tourism experiences throughout ensuring the legacy continues.

But the year has been much more than just Hobbits.

In July we exceeded 2.8 million arrivals for the first time ever.

We are continuing to build our presence in the emerging markets of India, Indonesia and Latin America. We recently hosted our Indonesian tourism ambassador Joe Taslim and NET.TV, a daily talk show described as "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" of Indonesia. Air New Zealand's Argentina announcement last week is welcome news to further enhance our work in Latin America, and next year's Cricket World Cup provides huge opportunities for the Indian market.

Strong momentum continues in the Business Events space, with 50 conference bids and 140 incentive bids under our belt. Plus the launch of the Advocates Programme, which sees the influential sector leaders who have previously secured conferences for New Zealand becoming advocates for future conferences.

The development of the premium sector goes from strength to strength. In August, New Zealand topped leading US luxury travel agency Virtuoso's annual 'Hot List', winning the honour for the biggest year-on-year growth in luxury travel from the USA. New Zealand's presence at Luxperience in Sydney this year was a great hit, and we've had over 25 premium media files visit our shores.

New Zealand played host to easily the largest reality TV show in China in September securing 217 minutes of prime network TV coverage. On his recent visit to New Zealand, the Chinese President stating that "Daddy where are we going?" made New Zealand the "most talked about destination in China".

Talking media, on any given day it's likely that there is an international journalist in New Zealand experiencing what we have to offer. As a conduit to Active Considerers around the world, visiting media represent an incredibly important part of our marketing strategy. In the last financial year our PR team facilitated 292 visiting media to Aotearoa. With each itinerary averaging eight days that's 2,336 hosted nights in the country. The proof is in the pudding though - these media delivered back to New Zealand almost $200million in estimated advertising value.

We've doubled the size of our social media community, increasing reach and engagement by 500 per cent and engaged in global media partnerships with Google and Facebook. While newzealand.com continues to break its own records and we've seen a record year for site visits and industry referrals.

Youth visiting New Zealand can now experience five of the world's most exhilarating sports in one day with 5X1NZ, a world-first adventure tourism product launched in conjunction with STA Travel. A stunt video launched the product, which was viewed by over 400,000 people across online channels.

In India and Thailand, we were awarded Lonely Planet's best destination and just last week we picked up the award for best country, courtesy of the UK's Daily Telegraph and the 90,000 readers who voted.

This is just a drop in the ocean on what has been an incredibly successful year for New Zealand tourism. And with November arrivals due out Friday, we expect the good news to continue.

From all of us at Tourism New Zealand, thank you for your support this year. Best wishes for the festive season and all the very best for what should be an exceptional summer.

See you back in 2015.

Kevin Bowler

Chief Executive