Opening of Ibis Hotel, Rotorua

  • Mark Burton

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to join you in celebrating the official opening of Rotorua’s newest international hotel.

I always enjoy visiting Rotorua – it’s a place that brings together many of the elements that make New Zealand tourism so special.

In Rotorua, guests can enjoy cultural and farming activities, some of our greatest natural attractions, adventure tourism, or just take some time to kick back, relax and enjoy world-class accommodation and service.

After five years as Minister of Tourism, I can say with all certainty that New Zealand is no ordinary destination.

(My only complaint is that I’m too busy to often get a chance to enjoy it!)

Guests can enjoy adventure tourism, spas, world-class food and wine, a wide range of quality accommodation, wildlife, skiing, unique cultural events, and more—all set against the backdrop of the world’s most beautiful, unique, and diverse landscapes.

Without a doubt, New Zealand has it all.

Only last week, I was in Rotorua to open the new Kiwi Encounter tour at Rainbow Springs. This collaborative venture between Rainbow Springs and the Department of Conservation allows visitors to learn about our national bird, while at the same time contributing to its conservation.

Kiwi Encounter is also a sign of the sea change that has occurred in tourism over these past five years.

Today, the industry is about partnership, both cross-sector and with the government.

Today’s opening of the Hotel Ibis means that Rotorua has over 1,700 rooms available to guests. Tourism is key to the city’s economy, and you are known around the world as an iconic Kiwi destination.

What a change from the beginning of last century. The Auckland-Rotorua railway had just opened, creating a much needed transport connection.

Demand for accommodation increased dramatically, and the Palace, Grand, and Geyser Hotels opened—taking the number of hotels in Rotorua to a grand total of five.

The government of the day was just beginning to realise the value of tourism to our economy and to promote New Zealand overseas.

The Surveyor-General at the time (S. Percy Smith) predicted that visitor numbers would equal our population by the middle of the twentieth century, and estimated that visitors would contribute over 100,000 pounds (in cash) to New Zealand’s economy.

Well, I hate to say it, but Mr Smith’s forecasting was a bit off.

In 2003, the Rotorua region attracted an impressive 3.2 million visitors, generating a total of 4 million visitor nights.

International visitor nights in Rotorua are currently forecast to increase by nearly 50 per cent, reaching close to two million by 2010. Domestic visitor nights are also looking strong—forecast to increase by 6.5 per cent to almost three million in that same period.

It certainly looks like a good time to open this new 145-room facility.

Nationally, the latest Tourism Satellite Account figures show a record-breaking number of visitor arrivals, coupled with an even higher level of spending.

In 2003, international tourism’s contribution to total exports was close to 18 per cent, or $7.4 billion.

Combined with our strong domestic market, total tourism spending represents approximately $16.5 billion, or nearly 10 per cent of GDP.

But these numbers also highlight some very important responsibilities—responsibilities this government takes very seriously.

We recognise that, if tourism is going to have a real, long-term future in New Zealand, we must balance the sector’s obvious economic benefits with the care, protection, and wherever possible, the enhancement of our natural and cultural environments.

Developed through a strong government/industry partnership, the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 outlines practical ways to build towards sustainability.

These working partnerships continue.

One of the strategy’s objectives is to improve business practice and environmental responsibility. As a government, we know that quality is at the heart of a sustainable tourism sector.

We supported the establishment and extension of the Qualmark tourism certification programme, and we continue to work with Qualmark to improve tourism practice across the sector.

Visitors who go home with good memories and experiences share those memories with their family and friends. This generates an ever-increasing “buzz” about New Zealand—publicity that no amount of money can buy. In turn, it attracts more of the kind of visitors who are best suited to what New Zealand has to offer.

The benefits speak for themselves – happy guests not only contribute to the sustainability of our tourism sector as a whole—they increase the profitability of individual businesses.

But real quality happens at every level, through every employee, for every single guest.

The success of the Ibis chain’s hospitality concept depends on selecting staff with the right skills, and dedicated to providing the best customer service. I know the 35 new staff employed by this hotel will live up to those high expectations.

Your focus on delivering quality and staff skills— in particular your excellent attitude towards employee satisfaction and opportunities—will help retain and develop your staff.

Both were highlighted as key industry issues in the Tourism Workforce and Skills projection report that I launched earlier this month.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the development team for this project: Rotorua Lakeside Resort Limited, Ray Cook, Khun Rasri Bualert and Khun Rattawadee Bualert, and Accor’s Michael Issenberg.

You can be proud of what you have achieved here at Hotel Ibis Rotorua. Thank you again for the opportunity to share this occasion and celebration with you.

Now, it is with great pleasure, that I declare the Hotel Ibis Rotorua officially open.