25th Anniversary Celebrations, New Zealand Tourism BoardTourism
New Zealand Embassy
New Zealand and Japan are good friends. We have close ties at many levels. In trade, New Zealand and Japan enjoyed nearly NZ$6 billion in two-way trade in the year to June 1997. That accounted for nearly 30% of New Zealand's total international trade.
In tourism, New Zealand and Japan also have close ties. Twenty-five years ago, this February, the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department first established an office here in Japan. That year, 5,400 Japanese tourists visited New Zealand. Now, Japanese tourists are familiar in many of our most famous tourists spots. In the year to April 1998, 160,000 Japanese tourists visited us in new Zealand. Japan accounts for nearly NZ$470 million, or 15% of New Zealand's total foreign exchange earnings from international arrivals. Japan is by far the most significant Asian market for New Zealand tourism.
When that first office opened 25 years ago, Japanese people knew almost nothing about Destination New Zealand. Over those 25 years, we've put a lot of effort into changing that. And we've been greatly assisted by the cooperation and support of prominent Japanese celebrities. We were delighted to honour the contribution of six of the most important of these celebrities earlier tonight.
Despite the great work that many people have done to raise the profile of Destination New Zealand, we know we are a small fish in a big pond. This means we are still not as well known as some of our competitors. And we are never going to be the cheapest option. With the current economic difficulties here in Asia - where price has become more of a factor - that's a particular challenge.
However, there are two factors which give me confidence in the future of tourism between Japan and New Zealand.
First, although Japan is currently facing real economic challenges, these will be resolved. When they are resolved, any short-term impediments to travel will be removed.
Second, a vast amount of change has occurred in the New Zealand tourism industry in the last 25 years. Particularly in the last 10 years, the New Zealand tourism industry has vastly improved its ability to cater for Japanese tastes. We now offer a vast array of personal, interactive and accessible experiences for our visitors, as they explore our country. In food, our ability to cater to Asian tastes has improved tremendously, with more than 900 Asian restaurants dotted throughout New Zealand. And, of course, New Zealand no longer closes at 5 o'clock in the evening. All our main centres offer a wide range of evening shopping opportunities and entertainment options right through to day-break.
These positive developments enable New Zealand to provide excellent value as a holiday destination. We may not be the cheapest option, but there is no country in the world that can offer the range of experiences available in Destination New Zealand. Both the New Zealand Tourism Board and the wider New Zealand industry are committed to future growth.
Given what New Zealand has to offer - and the Japanese taste for travel - I'm confident the next 25 years are going to be just as exciting as the last quarter century.