The value of a travel writer

Following the successful hosting of over 70 Australian Society of Travel Writers, last weekend in Rotorua, the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) annual convention has brought some 450 North American travel writers, PR professionals and associates, and their partners to New Zealand this November.

This is giving many in the tourism industry an opportunity to showcase New Zealand holiday experiences to one of our key visitor markets. Either side of the five-day convention, which is being hosted in Wellington 7-12 November, the delegates have the opportunity to experience 27 different tours carefully tailored to show the fun and accessible nature of New Zealand's offerings.

Tourism New Zealand and its partners in this event, Positively Wellington Tourism and Air New Zealand, have provided support to make it all happen because we see it as a unique opportunity to gain widespread media coverage in the US and Canada over a sustained period. By doing what we do best - presenting the vast range of experiences New Zealand offers, these professionals will be well supported to spread news and tell stories about New Zealand through a range of media channels for months to come.

The importance of the US market
The number of North American visitors to New Zealand has declined recently, due in part to the global financial crisis and, more recently, the strong Kiwi dollar. Long haul markets like America hold a massive opportunity for us; we know that 10 per cent of adult Americans are interested in visiting New Zealand - this amounts to about 20 million people actively considering New Zealand for their next overseas trip. Much of Tourism New Zealand's work is focused on converting this group with a desire to visit New Zealand, into people who commit to a decision to visit New Zealand for their next trip.

The media have a significant role to play in supporting our efforts. Travel writers are well established, networked, and in many cases influential in helping travelers make their decisions. Yet it is not enough to simply bring the media here - we need offer them a rich and personal experience that strikes a chord and inspires great travel stories.

Sharing New Zealand 100% Pure You
We know from our own experiences with developing our New Zealand 100% Pure You campaign that it is how someone feels about a destination and the promise of real experiences, that assist conversion.  A well-crafted story of a genuine experience, how it looked, felt, tasted and sounded can provide others with exactly the endorsement that they are looking for - and spur them into action.  Travel writers and photographers are ideal carriers of these messages to readers, listeners and viewers hungry for quality information. This is why our pre and post-convention tours, developed in partnerships with the RTOs, will take the delegates around our country, ensuring they see and experience all we have to offer. This is also the principle behind Through our website, tourism operators are invited to share their own real stories and experiences connecting their businesses with prospective visitors.

As you read this, there are hundreds of SATW delegates writing words, constructing pictures, and deciding what their audiences would like to know about New Zealand - it's inspiring for us to know that this country can provide such a rich source of material.

Inside Tourism column 'Foreign Exchange' | Published in Inside Tourism, issue 858, 10 November 2011

Kevin Bowler

Chief Executive