OPINION: We can’t reduce ‘new normal’ to dollars and cents


As a self-professed misfit, I’ve always questioned the status quo.

I don’t do this to be contentious, but because I believe that’s the path to creating a better world around us.

Last week, when we heard news about the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble my first reaction was relief.

The second was apprehension.







This is the first sign of things going back to normal and I thought, ‘are we ready to go back
to that old normal?’

Value versus volume has been an age-old conversation in tourism, and for as long as I remember that over-simplification has bugged me.

Tourism is the first industry I’ve ever worked in where we define our customers simply by their nationality, age and income.

In marketing, that’s known as demographics, and it’s not a very sophisticated way of determining who you want to do business with.

Having money is a very low bar to determine who we invite into our home and, as evidenced by that disgraceful display over Easter weekend, being from a specific country is no guarantee they are aligned with our values.

It’s time the conversation shifted to how our visitors think and behave, what their interests,
lifestyle and moral values are.

Replacing demographics with psychographics is not a new concept, in fact it dates back to
the ’70s, but it does create a much better fit between what we’re offering and who we appeal to.

That’s how most modern businesses define their target customers and how we should determine our ideal visitors.

Recently, there’s been a few soundbites in political speeches about international visitors paying their way and about targeting millionaires in private jets rather than backpackers.

Yes, of course we want visitors to contribute positively to our place, but discarding a  segment based simply on the perception of how wealthy they are is misguided.

Don’t get me wrong, the right millionaire, who respects our environment and appreciates our culture, is very welcome.

And so should be a young professional travelling the world during their formative years, as
long as they also share these values.

A humble backpacker may very well be the heir of a billionaire or may themselves be a future entrepreneur creating a life-long connection to our country.

The right mix of visitors is also essential to ensure our viability — doing away with our younger visitors would dull the vibrancy that makes Queenstown appealing in the first place.

When we reduce the conversation to dollars and cents, we cheapen this debate.

New Zealand and Queenstown have always been premium destinations, our geographic isolation guarantees that.

Designing a tourism recovery that works for our town is not just about attracting whomever has most money, it’s about attracting whoever brings the most benefit.

Tourism has been around for thousands of years, because humans have always had the desire to discover new experiences.

It is a rewarding industry that expands horizons, promotes human connection and brings
economic value.

As we prepare for the new normal, tourism can be an instrument to shape the lifestyle our
community wants.

Creating jobs, promoting innovation, contributing to a vibrant culture, supporting our leisure infrastructure and the preservation of the natural environment we all hold dear.

If we are strategic and intentional about targeting the right mix of people, we can bounce
back much stronger, resilient and successful than before.

That starts from understanding what role tourism can play and what visitor behaviours support our goals.

A high-value visitor is the one who is welcome, makes our home a better place and leaves with an invitation to come back.

Diana Mendes is a brand and marketing strategist based in Queenstown