Opening of the 1997 New Zealand Tourism Conference

  • Murray McCully

Christchurch Convention Centre, Kilmore St, Christchurch

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a pleasure for me to attend this Conference as Minister of Tourism.

This conference is a critical time for the industry as it is the first since many changes have taken place throughout the industry.

We have seen a number of changes in the Board of the New Zealand Tourism Board including new Chairman Bryan Mogridge.

We also have a new CEO at the Board - Paul Winter and a new Chief Executive at NZTIA Glenys Coughlan.

We have also moved to significantly upgrade the contribution that we can expect from the Ministry of Commerce Tourism Policy Group as an important part of the total mix.

And of course I am seven months into my job as Minister of Tourism.

I would like to pay a tribute to the New Zealand Tourism Board led by former Chairman, Norman Geary, for their outstanding work.

Visitor numbers have increased by 42 percent in the last six years.

Over those six years, the NZTB has played a key role in turning the tourism sector into a pre-eminent sector of our economy.

It would be very foolish of me to stand up here today and tell you that everything in the tourism industry is a bed of roses.

I am well aware of indications that, from the perspective of visitor numbers, the industry could be facing a quieter time in the foreseeable future.

But the tourism industry has had quieter times before and it will have quieter times again.

The overriding impression which I have gained in meeting industry people is of a very mature and confident view of where we are now and where we need to go next.

While we should be realistic about what to expect in the next twelve to eighteen months we must also avoid the temptation to respond with some short term - price-led decisions.

Instead, with a new team in tourism, it is the right time to take a long term strategic look at our future.

What I want to speak to you today about is how the government and my office can play our part in a successful industry over the next few years.

I want to talk to you about the building blocks we need to put in place to provide the foundations on which to grow.

High on the list, of course, must be retaining and enhancing the current funding arrangements for the NZTB to market New Zealand internationally.

I acknowledge my own responsibility to work with you and the board to build a greater understanding amongst the Cabinet, Parliament, and the public of the growing contribution of tourism to our national wealth and employment opportunities.

That is an essential foundation to ensure a sensible level of investment through the Board in the future of the industry.

Many of you will have heard me lament the lack of official measures of the tourism industry's contribution to New Zealand wealth. I regard it as a serious impediment to the industry that the real value of tourism to New Zealand cannot be recognised.

Over recent weeks I have been holding discussions with the Minister of Science and Research, the Hon Maurice Williamson, who has been very supportive of additional research funding for the tourism industry.

I am confident that we will soon be able to announce that provision has specifically been made from the science envelope for the Government Statistician to undertake a National Tourism Account - a key component in understanding the value of tourism to New Zealand.

In 1997 it is ridiculous that the Government Statistician can tell us what wool or dairy products or meat earn for New Zealand - but not tourism which earns more than each of the above.

In addition I hope to secure funding to provide for improved tourism forecasting work - a vital tool in securing substantial investment in high quality tourism infrastructure.

Also high on the list, alongside the level of resourcing, is the quality and focus of the services which the NZTB provides.

I said before that we had just enjoyed six excellent years.

But that does not mean that we should relax complacently.

You all know just how dynamic and competitive the tourism business is internationally.

Equally you will have observed the changes that have taken place in NZ as the industry, NZTIA, RTOs and other bodies grow in maturity and in professionalism.

For these reasons I have just signed a Purchase Agreement with the NZTB which is a bit different from the conventional type.

The agreement seeks a fairly substantial review of the Board's activities and anticipates the need for change to keep pace with our markets, our competitors and with changes here in NZ.

We have agreed that the Board should make sure that we are using new technology to the full, and that we are putting the maximum level of resource into offshore marketing.

Many of you have told me that the JV marketing fund has to be improved and its criteria, too are being reviewed.

We've agreed too, to explicitly recognise the unique contribution of Maori Culture to New Zealand's strategy.

We have agreed that the Board should make sure that we recognise the growing capacity of the Industry Association and the RTOs to accept greater responsibility. And we have agreed that we should eliminate areas of duplication.

Similarly the rise in dual destination traffic is telling us that we should look at our relationship with Australia, that we should have our eyes open for opportunities to share costs and to market regionally.

In short we agree that we want the next six years to be even more successful than the last, that we are not going to shirk our responsibility to confront change where it is needed.

The key feature of the new Purchase Agreement I have signed with the Board is its recognition of the almost overwhelming influence which the Millennium series of events, especially the America's Cup and the Sydney Olympics will have on both our short term tourism activities and the medium term value of the New Zealand brand in the international marketplace.

Over the next few weeks the Prime Minister will make some announcements about the way in which the Government will manage its interests in the Millennium celebrations, the America's Cup and the Sydney Olympics.

Today, can I merely emphasise the importance of not just looking to maximise the tourism benefits of each of these components individually, but to see them as part of a package of Millennium events which collectively will draw the international spotlight onto our part of the world in a prolonged and powerful way.

The opportunity which lies before us is not just an opportunity to enhance our tourism performance because some visitors have come to see a yacht race, some Millennium celebrations, or the Olympics, but rather an opportunity to give real impact and value to the New Zealand brand in the international marketplace for the following five years.

Some countries are large enough and diverse enough to be able to afford to take an inward looking approach to the Millennium celebrations, and to participation in major events. But New Zealand is not and cannot.

We are a small country, totally dependent for our success on our ability to market goods or services in a competitive international environment.

We have a unique position as a result of our place in the international time zone and the hosting in this region of a series of events which will draw intense media interest.

We simply cannot afford to take cheaply a once in a lifetime opportunity to give New Zealand a strong international brand as the sunrise nation of the new Millennium.

The Government is committed and I personally am totally committed to maximising this opportunity. This is now reflected in the Board's purchase agreement.

We have under-pinned this commitment this week by announcing the establishment of an Events Corp with significant involvement from the NZTB and designed to secure New Zealand a role in hosting high-value major events as we enter the next century.

And when the Prime Minister makes his Millennium announcements I trust you will agree that we have properly recognised the biggest opportunity that the New Zealand brand is ever likely to see.