speech to Tourism Industry Aotearoa annual summit
Te Papa, Wellington
Nau mai, haere mai
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou,
Ka nui te mihi, ki a koutou.
Thank you Tourism Industry Aotearoa for hosting today’s Summit.
In particular, my acknowledgements to TIA Chair Gráinne Troute and Chief Executive Chris Roberts.
You have been proactive and adaptable in organising this Summit despite the uncertainties of COVID-19, and there is a high quality line-up of expert speakers today.
It is my greatest pleasure to be able to speak to you today in my new role as not only the Minister of Tourism, but also as Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Economic Development and Regional Economic Development.
The synergies that exist between these three portfolios are significant
They will enable me to work with the tourism sector within the context of the broader national and regional economy.
In the last term of Government, I was the Minister of Small Business, Police, Revenue and Fisheries.
As the Minister of Small Business and in fact all businesses, I championed support for small businesses in the face of COVID-19.
This included tax refunds through the loss carry-back scheme, the Small Business Loan Scheme, advice through the Regional Business Partners Network, and digital capability funding for tourism businesses.
Prior to being a Minister and Member of Parliament, I’ve worked in small and large organisations in both the private and public sectors.
This included a six month stint working for Dr Gerry McSweeney at Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge as a nature guide.
It was an amazing experience in a truly beautiful part of New Zealand.
The enduring lesson was the absolute importance of having a strong customer focus and delivering on the brand promises we make to our guests.
My four priorities
So that brings me to this new term of government.
We currently have one of the most open economies in the world.
The fact we are gathered here today, side by side, as COVID sweeps through the US and Europe with hundreds of thousands of new cases every day, is testament to the fact that we all followed the rules.
On behalf of the Government, I thank you for that.
But I do not under-estimate the challenge ahead as the global pandemic reinforces the need for a strong border policy.
The Prime Minister has been clear that we will open up travel bubbles only when it is safe to do so.
The Government has two over-arching priorities:
- keeping the country safe from COVID, which relies on strong management of our border, and
- accelerating the economic recovery to support jobs and businesses.
The theme for the Summit today is ‘Revive and Revitalise.’
This reflects the message I have heard from Tourism industry leaders.
I know the vast majority of you have done it tough.
During the initial COVID19 outbreak the emphasis was on the immediate response. It required quick decisions from government and business.
Now we are all in a position to plan the recovery and rebuild over the short, medium and longer term.
This is my first speech as Tourism Minister and I want to share my outlook with you.
There are four key themes that I will be focusing on as we undertake this recovery and rebuild together.
I would be interested in hearing feedback over the next weeks and months as I get around the rest of the country and talk to more Tourism operators and the sector in person.
- Firstly: ‘Brand New Zealand’ is paramount. We need to be very clear what our global value proposition is and then deliver on it.
- Secondly: the Tourism industry will not return to ‘business as usual’, or the world that existed pre-COVID. There is no going back to Tourism circa 2019.
- Thirdly: It is essential that the full cost of tourism is priced into the visitor experience. To the question of ‘who pays’ the answer is not ‘ratepayers and taxpayers in small New Zealand communities’
- Finally: Partnership between the government and the industry is critical to achieve this transition.
Brand New Zealand
‘Brand New Zealand’ is paramount.
There is a risk that we let our brand languish in these troubled times, and there are very few things more difficult than resuscitating a brand in a crowded market. Tourism NZ understands this and is working incredibly hard to mitigate the risk of this happening.
To do this and mitigate risk we very clearly need to understand our global value proposition then communicate this to key target demographics in a way that engages and leads to action.
We then must live the brand and deliver our brand promises
We need to ensure everything we do enhances the experience of those who will be our biggest disciples – or our worst critics.
If we fail to deliver we will undermine the considerable opportunities that will exist. If however we get it right, then the world is our oyster. And we must continue to get it right.
Our strong response to COVID-19 has boosted New Zealand’s international reputation.
Our Prime Minister is a global superstar so let’s leverage off this as much as we possibly can.
Over time, as we safely relax border restrictions, we will have an opportunity to capitalise on this.
In fact, my ambition is that once global borders open, New Zealand is considered by the world’s most discerning travellers as one of the top three places in the world to visit.
Yes this is aspirational, but not impossible.
Our brand has never been as strong as it is now, so let’s not waste this opportunity for an industry reset.
No going back: the need for long-term sustainability
Tourism in New Zealand will never return to how it was before COVID-19 dramatically affected us.
New Zealanders expect a tourism sector that supports their communities and businesses.
We must attract high value and high spending visitors who buy into our own vision of sustainability.
We must therefore deliver high quality visitor experiences and exceed our visitors’ expectations.
No longer will New Zealand communities tolerate the worst of our freedom camping visitors, and nor should they.
Some, but not all, have abused our renowned hospitality.
I firmly believe that the low-spending but high-cost tourist is not the future of our tourism industry.
The sector is under pressure. We have known this for a long time. Problems like:
- Congestion in our national parks,
- degradation of our prime natural attractions,
- creaking local infrastructure,
- seasonal peaks and troughs
- all contribute to a poor visitor experience and an unfair burden on smaller communities.
Let’s turn the challenge that COVID-19 has created to an opportunity to reset tourism in New Zealand.
There are three things that must happen to achieve this change:
- We need to have better infrastructure
- We need to very clearly understand our markets, and then within these markets we need to target key demographics: particularly high spending visitors.
- But with this high-end tourist, comes high expectations.
The question of ‘who pays’
New Zealanders should not be subsidising international visitors to the extent that we have done in the recent past.
Some of the costs – such as the impact on infrastructure and the environment – are currently shouldered by taxpayers and ratepayers, when they don’t need to be.
I have asked officials for innovative solutions to minimise the costs to New Zealanders of tourism.
This includes ensuring visitors pay for the privilege of participating in the New Zealand experience.
I am keen to hear your feedback and ideas for how we can accomplish this.
TIA’s Election 2020 Action Plan identifies a shared opportunity to make bold changes to fix longstanding systemic issues that have compromised our desire to build a truly sustainable tourism future.
Partnership is essential to achieve this transition.
Government has resources, and the power to change legislative and regulatory settings, and a fantastic team of international agents advocating for New Zealand overseas.
The sector has excellent ideas and knows our customers.
Together, with a strong customer focus, we can build upon our shared values and vision.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reactivate and recreate our industry.
None of us can do it alone.
I commend the New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce, which is championing a vision of a sustainable, thriving future tourism system.
I acknowledge all members of the Taskforce and Advisory Group, many of whom are here today.
While I won’t be able to catch up with you all today, I am setting aside time in coming days and weeks.
I thank those who have contributed to the Taskforce’s work through the Invitations to Contribute process.
Steve Chadwick and Grant Webster, the co-Chairs of the Tourism Futures Taskforce will update you on the work of the taskforce later today.
I look forward to receiving the Taskforce’s report.
I trust they have been bold, innovative and future thinking.
Support to date
We stepped up quickly to work in partnership with the Tourism industry at the beginning of the outbreak, and we will keep working with you.
Support to tourism businesses has so far included:
- The $400 million Tourism Recovery Package
- The Wage Subsidy has supported tourism with an estimated $1.8 billion in payments to tourism operators alone.
- Tourism businesses have drawn down an estimated $285 million in interest-free loans under the Cash Flow Loan scheme administered by IRD, around 18% of SMEs who have accessed it
- The free business advice we funded through the Regional Business Partners Network, run by Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Agencies, has helped around 1,300 tourism businesses so far.
I look forward to working with you not only as the Minister of Tourism, but also in my other portfolios
I will take the time to meet and hear from more of you, and learn from your lived experience and expertise across the sector.
I am here to listen, and to understand how Government can work with you to support, rebuild and ‘revive and revitalise’ tourism for all New Zealanders.