Tricks of the Trade: The Importance of Working Distribution Channels
By Brad Monaghan
Normally I update the wider Wellington tourism industry with some new marketing initiative we are undertaking in Australia, whether it is a pop up restaurant or an animated marketing campaign. The objective here is to get people to fly in and out of Wellington for a long weekend/short break.
However the bread and butter of my role has a lot to do with the wider travel trade community – whether it be informing them of what is happening within Wellington, scheduling in-market trade training, supporting their front line staff on famils, informing the product teams on what Wellington products have changed hands, what activities have more traction for certain tours and so on. Bottom line is the trade will remain key – in fact some trade estimate that almost two thirds of all Australian holidays to NZ are booked through travel trade channels.
One of my primary objectives here is to get those big Aussie trade companies adding an extra night to Wellington – and so far so good, we have had some success with APT, Grand Pacific, Kirra and Scenic over the past 24 months. However this is easier said than done – the last few years’ tours have maintained a pretty similar price point; putting prices up and extending tours means potentially losing market share to competition, and for Wellington to attain an additional night means that we take a night off another area in New Zealand.
However 2010 was a pretty sweet year for Wellington in the trade space – without doubt the development in 2010 of Carter Observatory, ZEALANDIA’s interactive visitor centre and the CitySights hop-on hop-off bus have added another layer of commissionable export-ready product to the Wellington activity mix, a huge plus for us. Couple that up with the Lonely Planet “Coolest Little Capital” accolade, and our first year of campaign activity, and the trade are taking more notice of “the windy city”.
Clearly 2011 hasn’t started with a hiss and a roar for tourism. When visiting many of the trade in market in March, some reported negative days post-Christchurch quake – that is more cancellations than bookings. Many more stated that the phones just stopped ringing. Now, two months on, things are returning to some sense of normality. However the importance of Christchurch to the travel trade is so evident – pick up any brochure and half the tours will start in and out of the city and do that almost perfect circular holiday route of the South Island. In fact, in 2009 and 2010 over 40% of all Australian holiday arrivals arrived into Christchurch; to put into perspective, over the same period Wellington would have received about 6% of all Australian holiday arrivals.
Looking ahead, the trade expects the start of next season to be tough. But there are opportunities for Wellington. There’s more interest in North Island tours – at consumer shows many of the individuals have stated that as New Zealand is so close they would do one island one year, and the next in a couple of years’ time. The North Island gateway regions are working closely with ski wholesalers to create North Island ski packages pushed on price point . Australia’s high dollar will also help New Zealand, and so will (fingers crossed) a bumper ski season. Tourism New Zealand launched the ‘New Zealand is open’ campaign late March which showcases providers in their local environment, there are also some great deals to be had for consumers at the moment. Looking ahead for the next few months, we will be working closely with the travel trade on educational visits for their frontline staff, develop stronger partnerships with trade and airlines – especially with the extra capacity coming on from the Virgin Blue/Air New Zealand alliance, which sees almost 120 more flights each year to Wellington.
We have some campaign activity up our sleeve too, re-launching pop up restaurants and other “cool” activities to push our fair city and the great wine regions surrounding it as the best little short break for Australians. However a real focus for 2011 will be on working closely with the trade, and ideally helping to position Wellington as a viable start and finish point for some medium length itineraries that the trade can sell through their channels.
Watch this space.