New Zealand is widely regarded as a holiday destination of a lifetime, with pristine natural landscapes, an easy-going lifestyle, indigenous cultural heritage and adrenaline-pumping adventure sports creating a unique destination offering.
However, distance presents a significant obstacle in attracting inbound tourism, rendering it all the more necessary for New Zealand or Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, to punch above its weight, so to speak, in terms of marketing efforts.
Tourism New Zealand’s long-running single-message marketing campaign “100% Pure New Zealand” has been doing the rounds since 1999, and the success of this campaign has been one of the factors leading to further development of a national brand, such as the launch of the “New Zealand Story” in 2003. Developed in conjunction with Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and Education New Zealand, the initiative aims to leverage the “New Zealandness” of exporting businesses through a story told in three chapters: Open Spaces, Open Hearts and Open Minds. The development of a national brand that highlights caring for people and place, and integrating “kaitiaki”, a Maori concept of custodianship, with an open and honest approach, speaks volumes for the image projected externally by New Zealand to the rest of the world.
Yet contributing to national branding on the international stage isn’t the sole objective of New Zealand’s tourism industry, and efforts concentrating on regional dispersal and reducing seasonality have been credited with driving growth in several key industry sectors. Better regional dispersal is central to the industry’s growth framework, Tourism 2025, to encourage the better use of New Zealand’s tourism assets and relieve pressure on regions with the highest visitor loads. Promoting shoulder season tourism, by targeting markets with off-peak travel characteristics and hosting business events, is an additional component of the Tourism 2025 framework that has seen results since its introduction.
International sporting competitions, such as the British & Irish Lions Rugby Union Tour and the World Masters Games were major events driving demand in accommodation outside of traditional peak periods in New Zealand in 2017, although hoteliers indicate a mixed response to the Lions Tour. While New Zealand media widely reported the accommodation shortage in Wellington for the fixture between the Lions and All Blacks, with some fans completing a 600km round trip within the day, flying to and from accommodation in Christchurch just to watch the match; it wasn’t the same scenario across the country. Campervan rentals and holiday parks were reported to have seen bustling Lions-related trade; however as “freedom camping”, or camping on public conservation land, is permitted in New Zealand, particularly for vehicles that have been certified as self-contained, a significant proportion of the tour traffic didn’t convert into room nights.
A further hiccup for lodging industry revenues unexpectedly emerged in the form of the hospitality of locals, with the “Adopt a Lions Fan” movement emerging via social media in response to reports of accommodation shortages and price hikes for short-term rentals on game days. Offering free-of-charge billeting to Lions fans without accommodation in the major cities, and coordinated via Facebook, may not have resulted in optimised tourism revenue, but it certainly contributed to a positive and welcoming impression of the country and its people, which will no doubt resonate in terms of PR value in the future.
While New Zealand’s national brand is based on integrity, honesty and the unquestionable beauty of the country’s natural landscapes, there’s also a quirky and creative side to New Zealand that’s capturing attention around the world. In an unexpected viral success story, Air New Zealand’s unconventional flight safety videos, featuring well-known local and international movie and sports stars in humorous or surreal scenarios, have garnered something of an online following, collectively generating more than 108 million views and delivering awareness of the national brand to a wider audience. This ties in effectively with the nation’s film-related tourism, which remains a drawcard to this day, as industry sources reveal that the Hobbit Trilogy is still responsible for attracting one in five visitors to New Zealand. “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made”, a Tolkien-inspired piece released in conjunction with the final Hobbit film, remains one of the most watched clips for Air New Zealand, which dubbed itself the “official airline of Middle-earth” for the occasion.