NZ number one on US luxury travel agency 'hot list'

New Zealand has topped leading US luxury travel agency Virtuoso's annual 'Hot List', winning the honour for the biggest year-on-year growth in luxury travel.

The announcement was made at Virtuoso Travel Week, held in August, in front of 4,420 delegates, attending from 92 countries - the largest delegate attendance ever.

New Zealand topped the list by a wide margin, with a staggering increase of 196 per cent growth year-on-year. Chile followed in second place, with an increase of 103 per cent, while Indonesia, Hungary and Hong Kong made up the remainder of the top five.

Gregg Anderson, Tourism New Zealand's General Manager - Americas and Europe says, "Tourism New Zealand has been working hard in the premium sector, and this is a fantastic indication that our increased focus and investment, both within the Virtuoso network and the wider premium industry, is really paying off.

"It also highlights the top quality premium experience that New Zealand offers."

David Kolner, Virtuoso's Senior Vice President, Consumer, contributes the increase to several factors. "Fuelled by the popularity of the Lord of the Rings films, New Zealand has become a stand-alone destination in its own right, rather than being tacked onto an Australia trip for a few days.

"It's often a first trip abroad for a family, and is appealing to everyone from foodies to adventure-seekers."

Since July 2013 TNZ has significantly increased its investment in developing the premium sector, with $20million allocated over four-years to specifically target high-value travellers.

This has seen TNZ expand its partnership activity with the Virtuoso network in the US, with activity such as; hosting in-market training sessions and seminars, including launching a popular webinar training platform; hosting two  travel trade famils in the past 12 months with a VIP famil in May seeing 15 of the network's most influential travel advisors visit New Zealand; attending Virtuoso trade events with many New Zealand operators also present; as well as extending 100% Pure New Zealand advertising across Virtuoso's trade and consumer publications - Virtuoso Life and Virtuoso Traveller.

All activity has focused on further developing the network's understanding and knowledge of New Zealand - and, in turn, their ability to effectively sell the premium experience to their clients and increase their sales.

Since July 2013 TNZ has significantly increased its investment in developing the premium sector

Trevor Thomas, Director of Southern Crossings says that the destination New Zealand video created for the training sessions, and which showcases the Virtuoso Inbound Operators behind the scenes expertise, the variety of New Zealand Virtuoso properties along with Virtuoso Advisors enthusiastically soaking up New Zealand's naturally scenic environment, as a great example of this.

"This one piece of work alone shows how harmoniously the partnership works towards one mutual goal - selling destination New Zealand."

Gregg says, "This success with Virtuoso shows the power of partnerships and the cut through it can achieve - this activity has been carefully integrated with New Zealand inbound operators, lodges and Auckland, Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and we'll be looking at possibilities to roll out this integrated approach to other premium and general leisure consortia in the near future.

Jay Roberston, Managing Director of Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri Lodge - three key Virtuoso properties - says that his properties are seeing good momentum out of the USA.

"From our point of view, there is a lot of value in an integrated 'New Zealand' approach to working with Virtuoso, with New Zealand topping their hot list a great example. This partnership between operators, premium accommodation providers and Tourism New Zealand continues to develop and strengthen.

"For us, bookings are ahead of where they were last year and this is coming off the back of a great summer season."

Tourism New Zealand has also leveraged Virtuoso's growth into the lucrative Latin America markets.

"In the last year we have capitalised on the network's expansion into our priority emerging Latin American markets, establishing an integrated marketing plan to target Virtuoso's top luxury travel agencies in markets such as Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. With the ground-work now in place we are looking forward to progressing this during FY15," says Gregg.

This is the sixth year of Tourism New Zealand's partnership with Virtuoso, an invitation-only luxury travel network with a membership of more than 335 independent travel agencies comprised of 7,200 luxury travel advisors located in 20 countries around the world.  

Virtuoso markets to its database of more than 1 million affluent travellers who represent the top end of the consumer luxury travel market, with a median net worth of US$1.75 Million.