Gregg Anderson, General Manager-North America & Europe, Tourism New Zealand
By Robin Amster
July 30, 2012 11:45 PM
Gregg Anderson is general manager of Western long-haul markets, North America and Europe, for Tourism New Zealand. We spoke with him during the TRENZ (Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand), the country’s annual international travel trade event held in May, about New Zealand’s U.S. marketing plans, the influence of the upcoming film “The Hobbit” and what Tourism New Zealand is doing to change the focus of its travel agent training programs.
Is the soon-to-be released film “The Hobbit” part of your U.S. marketing plan this year? This year we’re continuing with our “100% Pure” message but we will integrate it with awareness of “The Hobbit,” which debuts in December. Beautiful scenery is one of the draws for New Zealand and the movie accentuates that and brings it to a larger audience. The “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy resulted in a surge of interest in New Zealand. At the same time, we’re going “Hobbit-lite.” Our experience with “The Lord of the Rings” showed us that a large proportion of prospective visitors understood that the movies were shot in New Zealand. This time that’s not enough. Talking only about the movie won’t work for a long-haul market like the U.S. and the financial investment visitors make in coming to New Zealand. We want to leverage “The Hobbit” to show broader aspects of a New Zealand vacation. We’ll do this in a variety of ways, including public relations, paid advertising and some partnership work. Some of this will be very strongly Hobbit-themed, while other promotions will be more “Hobbit-lite,” for instance actors talking about their experiences filming in New Zealand. We also plan to refine and target our marketing. This is where it’s important for travel agents so they can identify the “active considerers” for travel to New Zealand.
What is involved in “refining” your marketing? We have generally focused on a specific type of traveler that will enjoy a New Zealand holiday. Increasingly, we now have to work harder with our partners to convert that traveler interested in New Zealand to actually buy a vacation and visit. What helps here is having a better understanding of the different segments that may want to experience New Zealand. While we recognize that our target audience knows it is a stunningly beautiful place, this is often not enough. Age is a good qualifier, but interests or style of travel are also important qualifiers. Broadly speaking we segment the market into three groups: youthful travelers in their mid-30s or younger, independent travelers in their 40s or 50s and older organized tour travelers for coach tours or cruises. The independent travelers are the core of our luxury market.
Is there any change in your training for U.S. agents? In the past we tended to treat all American visitors as one group. Historically the online component of our Kiwi Specialist Program focused on the destination and on regions of the country. Now we’re increasingly taking a product, itinerary or special interest focus. Examples are modules on things like walking in New Zealand, taking a cruise, selling to the youth market, or food and wine tours. Training with specific companies or on webinars also tends to follow this pattern, often having product suppliers from New Zealand joining the sessions.
What does New Zealand have to offer for luxury clients? The luxury market to New Zealand has grown in the last 10 years. There’s a lot more competition in terms of product. And although the number of U.S. visitors has dropped recently, the luxury market has been pretty resilient. New Zealand wines have given New Zealand luxury a great reputation. With the wine business there’s been a growth in sophistication all around. We have an increasing number of luxury accommodations, fine food and wine, and some of the world’s best golf courses. Golf Digest’s “100 best courses outside the U.S.” includes three New Zealand courses: Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay, Kauri Cliffs in Matauri Bay and Paraparaumu Beach on the Kapiti Coast, all on the North Island. Air New Zealand also has introduced a new Premium Economy class featuring roomier Spaceseats and other amenities. We’re working with the Virtuoso and Signature Travel Network consortia to reach this market.
What new developments should travel agents know about? There are many new developments in the luxury space, including accommodations like the Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel in Rotorua and Minaret Station in the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s first luxury tented lodge. These work really well for the U.S. market. Also important is the continuing development of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. This government initiative is developing 18 trails through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful regions. The first trail is open and 11 others have sections already in use. I think this network is very on trend and will appeal to those vacationers who want to get off the beaten track, meet some real Kiwi characters and reap the health benefits from exercise.
How can U.S. agents sell Hobbit-inspired travel to New Zealand? We think the vast majority of visitors will want a taste of “The Hobbit.” Popular culture is so important. There is a lot of accessible product. Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm Tours has tours of “The Hobbit” film set. Located on farmland near Matamata in the North Island, the set was used in filming “The Lord of the Rings” and has been permanently rebuilt for filming “The Hobbit.” Nomad Safaris, based in Queenstown on the South Island, operates four wheel-drive safaris to various areas including remote locations used in filming “The Lord of the Rings.” The company also has introduced a new helicopter tour to Mt. Earnslaw, a “Hobbit” location inaccessible by land.
Robin Amster is a travel writer and frequent contributor to TravelPulse.com, Agent@Home magazine and Vacation Agent magazine. She attended TRENZ in May.