Getting Visitors To the Bay
By Michael Wan, Marketing Manager
Visitor Numbers – what can we expect?
Let’s take a moment to put things into perspective. The Ministry of Tourism forecasts provide an outlook on tourism demand in New Zealand over the next seven years. Total visits by travellers to Hawke’s Bay are forecast to rise from 2.30m in 2008 to 2.39m in 2015 – an increase of 4.1% (94,100) or 0.6% p.a. Total visitor nights are forecast to rise from 3.43m in 2008 to 3.66m in 2015 – an increase of 6.6% (227,600) or 0.9% p.a.
What are our objectives and focus?
Our programme of work is aimed at achieving growth targets for visitor nights and arrivals of 1% per annum over the next three years. We have a well managed integrated marketing communications programme that targets growth segments for our visitor market. Australia and the United Kingdom are the biggest contributors to international growth while Auckland and Wellington remain as the two key domestic growth markets.
Sounds simple right? Well it’s a little more difficult than you might expect. Research recently released shows that 77% of Australians are not even aware of Hawke’s Bay yet they are our biggest international market. We have therefore deliberately chosen a med-long term strategy for visitor growth, choosing to focus on reenergising awareness and appeal. We will strengthen and expand the Hawke’s Bay brand and work on creating sustained awareness. This will take time. Having said this, the programme is already showing good results due to the significant investment we have made this year compared to previous years.
In 2009/2010 we have had to focus on promotional marketing given the global recession and the more urgent need to generate visitors to the region. This has been at the expense of brand advertising which focuses on regional positioning and storytelling. For 2010/11 we will look to create more of a balance between both activities and call on more of an industry presence in the campaign space. January continues to be the peak month for visitors with June being the lowest. Promotional efforts will concentrate on delivering heightened activity in the two shoulder seasons to extend the peak periods. We will also put more emphasis on actively promoting Hawke’s Bay as a small event destination utilising our convention bureau status. This is a lucrative market that can deliver good economic return for the region.
High-level strategic partnerships are an important way to leverage Hawke’s Bay’s overall tourism spend, and you can expect to see more of them in the coming year. The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, the Great New Zealand Touring Route and our relationship with Tourism New Zealand are prime examples of these alliances, with further opportunities of working direct with the travel trade and airlines.
At a regional level we need to partner with industry. At the recent Think Tank workshop hosted by Hawke’s Bay Wine Country Tourism Association in conjunction with Venture Hawke’s Bay and Napier and Hastings Councils it was agreed that our role is get people to the region and the industries role is to make sure they have a good time and tell others.
We are planning some major changes to revitalise visitor numbers and the way we communicate to potential visitors. The Web and digital technologies provide new ways to interact and we want to focus on using innovations in digital marketing to enhance our promotional efforts. Digital marketing will allow us to reach the right people more effectively, to get involved in their planning and research, and help convert that interest into bookings. A digital strategy will be one of the core platforms of our 2010/2011 marketing plan and will allow for far better targeting and measurability.
We are already testing this approach as part of our Rugby World Cup (RWC) marketing programme. We are using social media channels to influence the travel plans of RWC followers before they leave home. It is resource intensive so we are looking at ways we can streamline things to make them more efficient.
Event sector development is a fundamental contributor to continued visitor growth. Currently the events sector is fragmented with many stakeholders working to their own agenda. If we want to be a serious player in this space then it requires a united regional lead strategy supported by regional funding.
What role does industry play?
Sustainable product and visitor experience development is crucial to the long term success of the visitor industry. It not only affects our brand reputation but it impacts on our ability to attract visitors. The industry must take a stronger leadership role in self managing this process, and this was recognised at the recent Think Tank workshop.
The quality of the current product and service offering needs to be assessed regularly and in line with visitor demand. The industry also needs to identify new product and facilitate its development in conjunction with service delivery, i.e. world class products with internationally accepted service levels. Consideration should also be given to the support mechanisms available such as Qualmark and STAR. The Cruise sector is engaged in this exercise now and is working with Venture Hawke’s Bay to understand the expectations of cruise visitors and ensure we have experiences in place to match those expectations.
As the lead marketing agency Venture Hawke’s Bay has a responsibility to provide a better understanding of who is coming to the region and the experience our visitors are having. We are therefore developing a visitor barometer in conjunction with the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute that will measure this. What we learn will directly influence not only the delivery of the visitor experience but it will also influence the future of the destination brand.
If we truly focus on ensuring we maximise the visitor experience then the traditional emphasis on quantity and volume will become a redundant statistic. The industry needs to focus on increased yield in preference to increased volume, and on increased customer satisfaction in preference to increased visitor numbers. Only then will we see true economic growth.
I want to leave you with a final thought. W. L. Bateman once said, “if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” We are making change for the good, but we cannot do it on our own.