TRENZ Attendees Celebrate New Zealand

With traces of global economic gloom noticeably absent, the majority of conference attendees were upbeat at TRENZ 2009, held in Auckland June 8 - 11 at the ASB Showgrounds. Kiwis are already looking eagerly ahead to the positive implications of Rugby World Cup 2011—literally just around the corner.

Aotearoa’s largest international tourism business event, Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand, welcomed 270 operators as exhibitors, 260 buyers from across the globe and nearly 60 media to the country’s largest city to meet, “have a coffee” and conduct serious business over the brew before bidding farewell at Skycity Convention Center at a gala gourmet dinner consumed to the beats of double-platinum Kiwi rock band Opshop.

Nearly 75 new tourism products were presented to the international marketplace for the first time and 80 luxury products were also on view. A good time was had by all, it seemed, but most importantly, new relationships were formed and old ones reinvigorated by the conviction that the country that promises to help you “get your life back” isn’t resting on its tourism laurels and waiting for the other economic shoe to drop. The tourism industry that fuels 10 percent of the nation’s economy, one in ten jobs and one dollar in every five of export earnings is steeling itself to seize the day when the global economy waves an “all’s well” signal to the rest of the world, including New Zealand.

Associate Minister of Tourism, Hon. Dr. Jonathan Coleman, reminded delegates that Prime Minister John Key, who is also Minister of Tourism, has enthusiastically taken on the country’s tourism portfolio.

“Our medium-to-long-term strategy is to invest in tourism-related infrastructure and to put in place the building blocks for when the economy returns,” said Coleman.

On TRENZ’s closing day, the Prime Minister jubilantly walked the exhibit halls in an effort to shake as many hands as possible. Later during his luncheon speech, he confirmed to the receptive crowd that Kiwi ingenuity would continue to rule the Down Under tourism roost, as it made the most of adventure from bungee jumping to jet boat rides, of the unique Maori culture and its stories, and of New Zealand’s deserving reputation for a clean, green environment deeply rooted in gorgeous, jaw-dropping scenery.

Key echoed Coleman’s thesis, promising to “put more money in the pot” to achieve identifiable tourism goals. Proof lies in the Kiwi tourism pudding, with new commitments signed and sealed including $50 million funding for a National Cycleway and $250,000 for a feasibility study focused on a national convention center in Auckland.

The National Party leader incited applause when he took the speaking opportunity to announce that he’s moving quickly and forcefully ahead to host New Zealand’s biggest-ever party for the seventh Rugby World Cup, Sept. 9 to Oct. 23, 2011—the world’s third-largest sporting event with an audience counted in the billions—with 48 matches to be played in 13 New Zealand cities as 70,000 fans come to New Zealand to watch in person.

Your clients with a penchant for cruising will be delighted with Key’s news, if they’ve disembarked from a ship in Auckland recently at Queens Wharf and told you they were less than impressed. Conditions for this Kiwi “welcome wagon” are not ideal, with the aging wharf in desperate need of a facelift, and now being used as a used car depot and storage site for ripening fruit. Many Aucklanders have watched and waited for years for “something” to happen with this prime piece of real estate that is also a first impression formed by visitors arriving by ship.

Key’s plans include turning the drab harbor-side structure into a vital public space for the RWC that would incorporate a proper cruise ship wharf and a “party central” capable of hosting between 10,000 and 15,000 people during the Cup. Key announced on June 15 that "a deal has been struck between the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and the Government to purchase this significant asset outright from Ports of Auckland." The New Zealand Herald reported that the government and the ARC each paid $20 million in the deal. Construction is said to begin in November of this year.

Tourism New Zealand’s Chief Executive George Hickton announced during TRENZ that his organization’s immediate focus will sustain on Australia and China as it looks at potential growth and measures numbers already realized from the country across the ditch. The expanding youth market will also retain its central impetus, representing 200,000 generally longer-staying visitors per year.

Hickton invited attendees to celebrate the tenth birthday of New Zealand’s simple yet now famous “100 Percent Pure” marketing campaign, best seen in retrospect at http://10yearsyoung.tourismnewzealand.com. The pristine message has resulted in a 50 percent growth in international tourism since its inception, and is the force behind some ten million annual website hits at www.newzealand.com versus one million in the beginning. The slogan, said Hickton, means what it says, with consumers experiencing what they see on a print or television ad or on a bill board: “pure adventure, pure hospitality and pure awe.” Tourism New Zealand, he said, was one of the first organizations to form a relationship with international channels and as such, now the brand ranks in the top 20 of all global brands. 

“We’ve had September 11, SARS and global warming debates, but through all of this the 100 percent Pure message has been resilient and is still relevant for New Zealand.”

Citing the campaign’s consistency, Hickton noted that the organization has “been able to use the brand for a wide variety of activity and promotions and that it’s a campaign that can work for New Zealand for a long time to come. We have no plans to change it any time soon.”