Queenstown’s king of Twitter – departing Destination Queenstown boss Tony Everitt – used to think tweeting was for people who didn’t have a life.
Follow me: Outgoing Destination Queenstown boss Tony Everitt built a database of about 2000 Twitter followers
Everitt says he changed his mind when he learnt that Twitter users are predominantly professional people 30 years and older.
Now he often tweets several times a day, most days – to the benefit of Queenstown’s profile.
As he prepares to leave for Shanghai to head up Tourism New Zealand’s Asian marketing team, Everitt says he’ll pass over a database of about 2000 Twitter followers to his successor.
Followers include DQ members, travel agents, airline managers and journalists around the world – with some as diverse as The Rock radio station and actor Sam Neill.
“In the old days, you used to go around sticking leaflets in people’s mail-boxes,” Everitt says.
“Then you had direct email marketing replace that. My view is that’ll be obsolete in two or three years because social media is the new database marketing.”
Everitt admits his tweets can be as banal as: ‘Nice day in Queenstown’.
“If you’re in Auckland, even that’s news,” he says.
Everitt can’t speak highly enough about his DQ team during the past two and a quarter years.
“We’ve got a unit that’s top of its class, certainly around NZ.
“The number of opportunities that our regular partners – Tourism NZ, Auckland and Christchurch airports, airline partners – are sending us is increasing at a rate of knots. The one challenge that DQ has at the moment is that the guys are just run off their feet which is a nice problem to have.”
Asked if DQ needs more staff, he says they’re trying to be creative by tapping into other resources, for example partnering with neighbouring regional tourism organisations in Wanaka and Fiordland, and even Dunedin and Christchurch.
Everitt took over the job six months after the messy departure of Stephen Pahl, who abruptly resigned after just eight months.
“To be honest, whilst I heard some discussion about that, it’s not something I saw first-hand,” Everitt says.
“When I arrived the team were in good shape, they were getting on with the job so for me it was actually an exciting time.”
That contrasts with Everitt’s arrival at his previous job as South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s chief executive in Fiji capital Suva.
“I walked into the office on the first day and there were no staff there because there was a coup happening.
“The phone was ringing and it was Radio Australia live wanting to talk to me about the situation,” Everitt recalls.
“It was kind of like jumping in the deep end. I met [my staff] eventually.”
Everitt won’t be jumping in the deep end in China.
In his former Tourism NZ career he opened the Shanghai office in 2000 though he never lived there.
Everitt has also taken a major role in helping Queenstown businesses understand the rapidly-growing crucial market.
“We’ve done things like the China forum, helped set up Chinese language classes, even simple things like sending around the sign to our members that says ‘Happy Chinese New Year’ and members saying the moment they did that the Chinese started walking in the front door.”
This year’s Chinese New Year saw that market come of age in Queenstown, Everitt believes.
“What really pleased me was the breadth of DQ members who stopped me in the street and were raving about how pleased they were with their Chinese business.
“You had skydiving, you had hang gliding.
“You had campervan park owners talking about people arriving from Shanghai and Beijing driving in campervans and needing to buy rice cookers to cope with the demand for the kitchens.”
Ironically, despite Everitt officially finishing his DQ role two days ago, he’ll be back in Queenstown in early May for the TRENZ tourism trade show.
“I’ll be at TRENZ with my Tourism NZ hat on.
“What it really emphasises is just how related the industry is – I’m going to work for Tourism NZ but as part of that I’m going to be representing Queenstown.”
Everitt has his say on ...
“We’ve been so busy over the last 12 months focusing on the earthquake recovery and putting together the forward plan that it’s not something we’ve had an opportunity to consider or canvass our membership on. At the end of the day, our role here is to market the product that we have, including flights that we have, to best advantage.”
Proposed tourism rates:
“We’re a marketing organisation. How the council needs to fund the infrastructure in the town is a discussion between the council and the ratepayers. We’re not paid to have a view on these things.”
Conference centre progress:
“A convention centre that takes us to a new level in terms of a new market that we can tap into is going to be very helpful for Queenstown. I think the process is being worked on as fast as is possible. Most importantly, we’ve got to find someone to pay for it.”
“We’re a significant visitor destination, even in global terms, therefore you need all the markets to make this town work. [Backpackers] are not the only show in town but they’re an important part of our market portfolio.”
Graham Budd as his possible successor:
“It’s totally inappropriate for me to comment on my replacement [selection] process. It’s been a total pleasure to work with Graham. I think DQ’s been lucky amongst regional tourism organisations in NZ that we’ve had two senior people, which has made us a very effective outfit.”
Queenstown’s major challenges:
“Dealing with the dynamic world that we’re in, staying on top of the trends and being able to change those into revenue and profit for the town and for the businesses is the biggest challenge. Whilst that’s a challenge, inbuilt into the town is the ability to be sensitive to what’s going on in the outside world, to react to it and adapt to it. I don’t think I’ve seen any other place that is as good at doing that as Queenstown is.”