We’re in a hole not a crisis

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Visitor numbers down but tourism boss upbeat.

Tourism might be entering “a hole” but it isn’t in a crisis.

So says Tourism New Zealand boss George Hickton, who brought his regional managers from around the world to a pow-wow with local oper­ators in Queenstown last Friday.

“You’d hardly say it’s a crisis when [visitor numbers are] down about four per cent.

“There’s certainly an unknown element, so yes, we should be concerned, but let’s face it, nobody can pick the next few months in any industry.

“We certainly recognise we will go into a hole this winter, and there’s not much you can do about it, apart from ski promotion, which is under way now.”

Hickton says Tourism NZ “front-loaded” marketing to keep this summer’s numbers as high as possible.
“Normally Australians can’t get here in January/February because all of the hotels are full.

“This year we recognised that wouldn’t be the same, so we pushed a lot more promotion into Australia, and that’s paid off.”

NZ was luckier than recession-hit northern hemipshere countries because winter’s our low season, anyway.

Asked about the Japanese market, which has nearly halved since 2002 – yearly holiday arrivals are down from 143,000 to 73,000 – Hickton declined Mountain Scene’s invitation to declare it a dead duck.

Tourism NZ had shifted “top-level brand marketing” from Japan to Australia, but doesn’t want to walk away from the Land of the Rising Sun because its visitors spent more than any others.

Total receipts had risen in the past three years despite numbers falling 25 per cent. A $500 fuel surcharge paid by Japanese air travellers was also about to be lifted.

Asked about emerging areas, Hickton says Tourism NZ is considering South America and may expand
its European marketing beyond Germany and the Netherlands into France, Spain and Scandinavia.

Despite worldwide recession, Hick­­­ton remains positive because, in his words, “it’s the day of the deal”.

“Airfares are down, the exchange rate’s down, it’s never been a better time to travel.”

And a proposed $60 million tourism fighting fund had “got through the filter of [the Government’s] jobs summit, and it’s come through that tourism is one of the key economic drivers that could help [NZ] through”.