Celebrating Success and Planning for More: Tourism Bay of Plenty

  • Lockwood Smith

Inaugural Awards Dinner  

Bay of Plenty

Mills Reef Winery

Doug Burton;

Ladies & Gentlemen.

It's always good to be in the Bay of Plenty - one of New Zealand's most upbeat, confident and fastest-growing regions.

In tourism - in true Bay of Plenty style - I'm told that visitor numbers are growing at more than twice the national rate.

There's plenty to celebrate, and my congratulations to the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic tourism students for organising this inaugural awards dinner.

In New Zealand, we need to celebrate business and academic success a bit more, just as we celebrate sporting success.

Good on you for doing so.

For what it's worth, I believe Bay of Plenty tourism students have made a good choice for study and career.

New Zealand tourism has boundless potential.

As Trade and Tourism Minister, my job means I'm probably one of New Zealand's most frequent travellers overseas.

So it's not just patriotism talking when I say that no other country offers such diversity of appeal, particularly in such a small area as New Zealand.

On concluding his recent in New Zealand, President Clinton said:

"... this has been a magical trip. I think every person, when he or she is young, dreams of finding some enchanted place, of beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastline and clear lakes and amazing wildlife, and most people give up on it because they never get to New Zealand. This has been an amazing thing for me and for all of us."

And just in case you think he was just being nice to his hosts, Lonely Planet has called us a "microcosm of the world's attractions".

Indeed we are.

And it means that already tourism has become New Zealand's biggest earner of foreign exchange.

Even excluding airfares, it earned us over three and a half billion dollars last year.

It's nearly doubled its earnings - using 1999 dollars - this decade.

And, last week, Statistics New Zealand announced that the tourism industry had achieved the highest number of international visitor arrivals in New Zealand's history.

It clearly shows that the industry has successfully put the Asian Economic Crisis behind it.

Just as importantly, we're seeing increases in both the average spend per day and the median length of stay.

The tourism data is all looking good.

It's election season so you might expect that I'd be jumping up and down trying to claim those achievements for the Government.

I'm not going to do that.

The reason tourism has been so successful this decade is precisely because Government hasn't tried to provide the kind of "help" that depressed farming in the 1970s and early 1980s - the kind of help that some people still advocate from time to time now.

The credit for tourism's success and growth lies with the industry.

That experience guides my approach to the portfolio.

I have no intention of travelling round the country telling you how to do your jobs.

You're the experts, and the experts of the future.

My role is to help you achieve your goals in areas where the Government has a useful role.

In July, I asked the industry to establish an over-arching goal - to which the whole industry can sign up - for foreign exchange earnings into the New Millennium.

I asked for the goal to be realistic, but slightly beyond what people believe is achievable right now.

Just last week, the new CEO for the New Zealand Tourism Board accepted this challenge.

George Hickton set a goal for foreign exchange earnings of $7.7 billion over the next five years.

He also set a goal of increasing international visitor arrivals from 1.5 million to 2.5 million visitors over the next five years.

It's great to have these goals articulated - it gives us all something to focus on, and real targets against which the industry can measure its performance.

And the results are exciting for the industry, and all New Zealanders.

It's estimated that increasing foreign exchange earnings to $7.7 billion could mean a total of between 170,000 and 200,000 tourism-related jobs.

All other things being equal, tourism would, indisputably, be by far New Zealand's biggest industry.

It's more difficult, of course, to set clear goals for the Bay of Plenty.

We're not a controlled economy - we don't have border checks between our provinces, so it's difficult to gather hard data.

But I'm told that you believe domestic and overseas tourism may be adding $150 million to your local economy, mostly from visitors from Auckland and the Waikato.

Establishing measurable goals, against which the Bay of Plenty industry could measure its performance, would be valuable here too.

At the very least, establishing clear, measurable goals would help Tourism Bay of Plenty demonstrate its value to its funders.

My role then becomes not telling the industry what to do, but helping it to achieve those objectives.

And as Minister, I've established three key goals to do just that.

The first of my three key goals is a sustainable flow of tourism earnings.

It's about ensuring that we see ongoing improvements in not just our visitor numbers, but in the average spend per day and median length of stay.

The core of it is the global marketing strategy.

I don't know how may of you have worked with advertising agencies, but some people find it frustrating.

You can probably think of a hundred good reasons for someone to visit the Bay of Plenty, but the advertising agency won't be interested in the detail of any of them.

Its job is to find a "single proposition" that sums them all up.

With "100% Pure" I think the Tourism Board and M&C Saatchi have done a good job.

It captures what research suggests people are looking for in a holiday of the kind New Zealand offers.

But it is generic enough to be used to promote the full spectrum of our features and attractions.

Tourism Bay of Plenty, for example, has the opportunity to market yourself as 100% Pure .... whatever you determine your "single proposition" may be.

So too can particular attractions in the region.

Consider, for example, "100% Pure Inspiration" with an image of a tourist overlooking Matakana Island from the top of Mount Maunganui.

Or for adventure tourism facilities such as Longridge Park, "100% Pure Thrills".

The big challenge for us, though, is getting the brand into people's consciousness.

A small country such as New Zealand simply doesn't have the resources to achieve huge increases in brand awareness from advertising alone.

One thirty-second TV ad spot in the US can cost millions of dollars.

It is why the strategy has been designed to leverage off the international publicity to be generated by APEC, the Clinton/Jiang Summit, the Rugby World Cup, the America's Cup and the Millennium.

Sports fans around the world see a team all dressed in black, playing a strange game, from a place called New Zealand.

They then see an advertisement that then tells them what New Zealand is.

Or a news junkie sees the US National Security Advisor talking about North Korea from a place called Auckland, New Zealand.

They see an ad that tells them what New Zealand has to offer.

Without that leveraging, the ad would not mean so much to the viewer.

It's an innovative strategy that'll make a very small budget - by international standards - go much further.

It's backed up by billboards, the Internet, quality public relations and other means of delivering the 100% Pure message.

I'm confident it will help achieve the first of the three key goals - a sustainable flow of tourism earnings - through the next decade.

And your efforts here to market Bay of Plenty as a "must-see" part of New Zealand will help to extend the length of stay numbers.

My second key goal is removing barriers for tourists.

My thinking here is that it's no good us spending millions of dollars telling tourists to come to New Zealand if we then go and make it difficult for them to do so.

Some progress has already been made.

Already, 14 or our top 15 markets are visa free.

In the last year, we've made progress by giving visa free status to people in a dozen other markets.

Some are populous, such as Brazil; others are small but very wealthy, such as Kuwait.

We're now down to much smaller markets, with nine being examined for visa free status right now.

None of them, individually, is going to make a big difference.

But, collectively, the nine have a population bigger than the UK and Ireland combined.

It's worth making progress on them.

There's no point in having silly regulations getting in the way of any potential tourists.

Where there are good reasons to continue to require visas from citizens from some countries, we're increasing our staffing in immigration offices and streamlining procedures.

Extra staffing has gone into Beijing, Shanghai, Jakarta and Washington.

New offices are going to be opened in Moscow and Pretoria next year, and I'm also looking to upgrade our services in Delhi.

At the same time as making it easier to get entry into New Zealand, we're making it easier to get here - we're opening up our skies as much as possible.

I'm happy to sign an Open Skies Agreement with almost anyone, and I'm determined to settle the Beyond Rights through Australia, so more airlines can operate across the Tasman.

All these initiatives are about making it easier for a tourist to get from home to Tauranga.

My third key goal is to reduce barriers for the industry.

We need to streamline RMA procedures that can hold up tourism developments.

We need to reduce the tax compliance costs all businesses face.

I'm constantly looking for feedback from the industry on the major issues you face, so I can have them put higher up the agenda for the Government to sort out.

I'm interested to learn the major barriers that you face here in the Bay of Plenty, for me to take back to Wellington.

That's a summary of my three goals as minister, against which I expect to be held accountable:

* A sustainable flow of tourism earnings
* Reducing barriers for tourists
* Reducing barriers for the industry

They sum up the approach I intend to take to help the industry achieve your goals.

Tourism in New Zealand has an outstanding future, and so too does tourism in the Bay of Plenty.

This is a beautiful part of New Zealand and the Pacific Coast Highway concept, I believe, will help to put it more firmly on the map for overseas tourists.

Already, you're attracting increasing numbers of domestic travellers.

That will help to build your infrastructure, your skills and your cash-flow for the next stage of your development - positioning yourself as a "can't-miss" part of New Zealand for our growing number of international visitors.

I wish you all the best for that effort.

I congratulate you for celebrating your success with this dinner tonight.

And I look forward to working with you into the New Millennium.