AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- As part of our ongoing coverage of TRENZ 2013, New Zealand's biggest trade show, Travel Agent had the privilege of sitting down with John Key, New Zealand's Prime Minister and minister of tourism, who told us there will be an aggressive push to promote the destination to U.S. agents.
Key recently released details of budget initiatives for tourism, including roughly $28 million for business events and $17 million to attract very high-value clients. As part of a larger internationally-focused growth package, the Government is investing an additional $132 million in tourism through Budget 2013 to attract more visitors to New Zealand, particularly high-spending visitors. Of that money, Key told us that roughly $23.5 million of those funds will be used to promote New Zealand's core markets, which includes the U.S. The money allocated toward U.S. marketing will be used primarily to promote the destination via digital media and to promote the destination to agents. In fact, Tourism New Zealand is already slated to host a mega fam in late May, in which 200 agents will tour the country.
Key told us one of the main benefits of getting more agents to the country is to promote New Zealand's luxury offerings, something that often gets ignored by the U.S. market mainly in part because people fail to associate the outdoor adventure offerings that New Zealand has with luxury.
"We can do a better job in the industry of promoting our luxury products," Key told Travel Agent. "Some of our luxury products are up there with some of the best in the world. This is done to make sure we give that world class experience."
Although the West Coast is New Zealand's strongest market from the U.S., the East Coast is not far behind, Key says. As far as specific cities that are expected to see a major boost, agents should keep an eye on Houston since United Airways plans to add direct Dreamliner service from there to Auckland, Key says, although those plans have been temporarily stalled due to Boeing's manufacturing hold-ups.
As far as niche markets that are expected to pick up steam from the U.S., New Zealand is targeting both the youth travel and MICE markets. On Tuesday it was announced that Tourism New Zealand and STA Travel have signed a Memorandum of Understanding worth a combined $1 million annually as part of a multi-year partnership to target the influential long-haul youth travel sector in North America. The partnership will also take place in the United Kingdom and Europe.
"We are really looking to get some repeat business out of this," says Key. "We will get the backpackers here and then when they get older and have more money, they will come back."
But the MICE market plans may be a little further down the road since new conference centers slated for Auckland, Queenstown and Christchurch are still pending approval and may take up to four years to build, says Kevin Bowler, CEO of Tourism New Zealand.
"Auckland and New Zealand (convention facilities) need to be able to host a certain size and, at the moment, we don't have the size," Key told Travel Agent. "But there is no question there is demand. And if the demand is there, we will build the infrastructure."
Before our exclusive interview with Key, he addressed all media attending the ongoing TRENZ show. During that portion Key announced that the show will return to Auckland next year. This was the first year the show was in Auckland after the last two were held in Queenstown.