DestinationsNew Zealand is 100% open; here's what travellers need to know

Welcome back to New Zealand

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100% New Zealand: the country is eager to welcome back international travellers.
100% New Zealand: the country is eager to welcome back international travellers. Photo Credit: Unsplash/RoelldeRam

Enthusiasm was high at Kiwi Link North America as travel advisors reconnected with New Zealand tourism representatives and received updates on the country’s travel industry outlook, target markets, new developments and more.

“There's a whole lot of energy, because our borders are open and we're open for business,” said Stuart Nash, minister of tourism for New Zealand. “So, my message is: If New Zealand isn’t on your bucket list, it should be.”

Here are a few key takeaways from the event.

With the country still scaling up its tourism offerings following the reopening of borders, de Monchy advises travel advisors to book their clients’ trips far enough in advance to avoid availability limitations.

“What you find now is that operators are really focused on making sure they deliver a quality experience,” de Monchy explained. “So, in some cases, they aren’t operating at 100% because they want to be able to deliver a great experience. The key is booking and planning early.”

Travel is rebounding, but recovery will take several years

Leisure travel has been a bit slow for New Zealand since its reopening just a few months ago, but logically so for the current winter season. And, in fact, the gradual restart is giving the industry time to build up ahead of the busy season.

“Our traditional summer peak season starts around November/December, and we’ve got good interest ramping up toward that,” de Monchy said. “In a way, it’s good that the industry has the ability now to get ready for summer. I think the challenge is, what do we want it to look like over the next couple of years? But we’re trying to get a handle on that in the immediate term.”

De Monchy acknowledged that it will likely take several years for the industry to fully recover from the pandemic. Like many other global destinations right now, New Zealand is facing staffing shortages and other rebuilding challenges. However, the destination is working actively to address them — and make the system even better than it was before.

“What we did is set up an Industry Transformation Plan across eight areas of our economy,” Nash said. “And for tourism, the first challenge we’re looking to address is the workforce. This is a partnership between government, unions and the industry, to say, ‘How do we build aspiration for people to get into the tourism workforce, deliver on the experience that tourists expect, and create an environment where it’s a fun place to work, but also a career.’ We know that if we don’t get our human resources right, we are not going to be able to deliver on the promises we make.”

Nash also noted that these challenges are not affecting the quality of the visitor experience.

“It’s a fantastic time to travel to New Zealand,” he said. “Wherever you go, you’re still going to get that really warm Kiwi welcome, and the service you get is still going to be first-class.”

New Zealand is building a regenerative travel industry

In addition to making its tourism industry a better place to work, New Zealand has other plans to improve the sector, as well.

“We’re talking about sustainability, but we’re taking it a step further,” Nash said. “During the lockdown, the government gave our regional tourism organisations a decent chunk of money to take a good, hard look at what they were doing. And a lot of them were putting out really good promotional material without engaging their local community. So, with regenerative tourism, the plan we put together is about going out to key stakeholders in the community and saying, ‘Can we talk about what you want to see with regards to tourism?’”

It's a strategy that Nash says will benefit both local communities and visitors, creating a system in which travellers can have deeper, more meaningful experiences in larger and smaller regions across the country.

The ideal New Zealand traveller is looking for meaningful experiences

New Zealand’s goal is to attract travellers seeking a transformational experience in which they really interact with — and invest in — the destination.

“We talk about high-quality tourists, and that isn’t just about money,” Nash said. “It’s about tourists who engage in everything we’ve got to offer, whether it be local community, local culture or local attractions.”

“Part of our research and our targeting is to find out people’s interests in culture, nature and society, so that we can start to use those to attract them, but also encourage them to participate beyond a financial contribution,” de Monchy added. “There’s so much more benefit that can be had from travelling beyond just the obvious, so we are looking for people who are interested in nature, interested in regeneration, and interested in contributing to society as part of their drive for traveling.”

Through ongoing education efforts and the Pure New Zealand Specialist Program, the tourism board is working to get agents up to date on all the changes that have taken place over the past few years, as well as to provide practical information about visiting.

“We continually support the government in getting the requirements and message through to the travel trade, so they can tell their customers and make it as easy as possible," Monchy said.

Source: Travel Age West

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