Tourism New Zealand signed a large-scale partnership agreement with the network in June, which represents more than 6,000 travel professionals across 445 retail travel locations in the US and Canada, generating over $6 billion in sales.
Capturing greater value from the premium sector is an important part of Tourism New Zealand's strategy to grow the number of high-value visitors to New Zealand and GM Americas and Europe Bjoern Spreitzer says the partnership is excellent news for the New Zealand industry.
"Through partnerships with luxury travel consortia such as Signature, we are able to extend our reach to an unprecedented level.
"Our partnership with Virtuoso resulted in NZ$100 million in inbound travel to New Zealand in 2014 alone. The new partnership with Signature allows us to further diversify and promote luxury New Zealand across a wider base of North American premium travel sellers."
The partnership kicked off with Tourism New Zealand headlining as destination partners at the annual Signature Travel Network regional meetings in Los Angeles and Chicago.
At the events, Tourism New Zealand staged 90-minute destination training seminars with more than 100 luxury travel advisors. Tourism New Zealand presented alongside Air New Zealand, Kurtz-Ahlers Associates (representatives of The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers) and Real Journeys.
Signature members handle independent travel arrangements to the region through Signature’s 'Destination Specialists'.
One such company is Auckland-based boutique inbound operator Southern Crossings. Director Patrick Bourke says Tourism New Zealand’s agreement with Signature can only enhance what is already a beneficial relationship.
"We feel a significant benefit of the Tourism New Zealand/Signature partnership is increased exposure for the moderate to luxury industry here in New Zealand. Tourism New Zealand will be able to profile and expand New Zealand’s variety of properties and experiences across the board further than ever before.
"Southern Crossings has partnered with Signature since about 2004. In recent times an increasing number of Signature members have been using the Destination Specialist programme to create customised itineraries – offering a more personalised option from buying packages from stateside wholesalers.
"Signature is very loyal to their suppliers and members alike with increasing moderate to high-end travel sellers within their membership, becoming an exclusive group to belong to."
Murray McCaw, Luxury Lodges of New Zealand Chair, said the group was reporting excellent growth from the USA, with the majority of the lodges’ business coming from established trade distribution channels (such as those represented by Signature).
"The Signature Travel Network is one of the key sources of business for luxury lodges and we are pleased to work with Tourism New Zealand to develop this important relationship. We have seen similar strategies work with other groups and there is no doubt that working together on these programmes – combining Tourism New Zealand’s premium knowledge and resources with relevant product – is a highly effective way to grow presence and share in this market."
In the next 12 months, Tourism New Zealand will run a tailored programme of marketing activities with Signature Travel Network centred around destination training – to educate the network’s travel advisors on New Zealand’s offerings in terms of luxury accommodation and experiential travel (including special interest areas such as fly-fishing and golf). A dedicated webinar programme will be part of this, as well as attendance at trade shows – such as the network’s annual general meeting in Las Vegas, which more than 3,000 travel advisors turn out for each year. Luxury New Zealand will also feature in high-end publications, with editorials scheduled for Ultimate Experiences and Travel Redefined.
"All activity will be focussed on further developing the network's understanding and knowledge of luxury New Zealand – so their members are able to effectively sell the premium experience to their clients and thus increase the number of high-value visitors to the country", says Bjoern.