By Brad Monaghan
A mash up of a tonne of wine, over half a tonne of water, 100 kg of salmon, the same quantity of chocolate and 20kg of coffee is enough to make anyone feel a little sick. But it’s just part of what pulls together WLG, the second serving of Wellington’s pop up restaurant, which this November took shape in Melbourne.
This project is one big partnership. PWT are the glue, the event organisers and the cheque book behind WLG, and we run this project for two primary reasons:
The first reason is that it brings together the best of the best chefs and front of house staff throughout the region’s award-winning restaurant sector. It also provides a platform for those exporting into our nearest international market to showcase their product to foodies, as well as current and potential suppliers. It not only brings these talented people and companies together, but it gives PWT a bit more credibility with a different facet of partners in a space that tourism organisations seldom play in.
The second reason we do it is because it showcases exactly what we pride ourselves on being - the country’s leading food destination. Images, brochures and stories can only do so much; we have to put our money where our mouth is, and feed and water our target market on the other side of the ditch so they can actually taste, engage and feel like they know the city. And with access to world class wine and produce both north and south of our fair city, it’s a perfect match.
And best still, the concept works. This year with some shrewd partnership activities and plans in place, over 9 million Australians read, watched or heard something about WLG and Wellington in the last month, check out footage on NZ’s Breakfast TV, Air NZ’s activation stunt on Youtube or some great coverage in Lonely Planet. That nine million audience excludes the great broadcast, print and online coverage the project attained in New Zealand, or the coverage this project got in Germany, the UK and India.
One interesting thing about this project, is although it costs PWT approximately $200 000 to run, about $70 000 is offset by revenue attained through hungry and thirsty diners; it is sort of unique to run a marketing project where the project in part pays for itself.
So where next for WLG? It’s hard to really look at another market in Australia for a pop up restaurant, as we have hit Sydney and Melbourne, and both are our key markets for cashed up Aussies that like food and wine experiences and have the ability to take a short break to Wellington and the surrounding wine regions.
But another smaller incarnation of WLG could be on the cards, as long as we keep it fresh, relevant to our audience and to our partners it seems like cooking up a culinary storm of regional goodness for those we want to attract is a recipe for success.
By Brad Monaghan
With Expedia voting Wellington New Zealand’s best value city this week, it seems opportune to provide an update on the world of the Online Travel Agent (OTA).
In Australia we undertake a lot of activity with OTAs as Wellington has a strong supply of hotel stock that work in this space, consumers have a greater trust in internet booking than perhaps five years ago, and Australia is pretty short haul – New Zealand is seen as almost domestic in terms of travel (language, proximity, culture etc) – so those here for a few days for business or pleasure dont have the barriers of use that some longer haul destinations have.
The main reasons though that Positively Wellington Tourism undertakes work with OTAs is that they can provide tangible results. They can deliver measureable spikes in bookings, are growing their market share in terms of travel sold and they have massive databases of people hungry for deals. So if we are not getting bookings for Wellington (although that’s certainly the aim), we are generating awareness and ideally getting the data of consumers we know want to take short breaks.
The big boys in this world include Wotif, who are the largest provider in Australia and New Zealand and are also tied up with lastminute.com. Expedia - the world’s largest online travel company - also run Hotels.com and Orbitz tie in their Hotelclub brand in Australasia. Plus there’s the likes of Travelocity, who have Zuji in Australia. You get the idea that this is a pretty busy space, with each parent brand typically running others to attain a greater market share. Confusing? Sort of…
It’s pretty apparent why accommodation providers work with OTAs, but as the RTO – why do we work with them? Depending on the OTA, they need critical mass to get traction, so in Australia you can expect them to have a database of the size of the population of Wellington; to get a message to another market that size is going to be expensive! The other key thing is although it is like pulling teeth in terms of getting sales figures etc, we ensure we get this from the outset. This way we can understand what type of growth we see over campaign vs non campaign activity. An OTA isn’t going to convert someone to go to a destination that they haven’t thought about, but as awareness of our fair city and surrounding wine country grows in Oz, it’s a good tool to convert lookers to bookers.
Why wouldn’t you?
Rate parity. Some OTAs insist on being provided the lowest rate available. While this can be OK in small doses, it doesn’t really lead itself to a strong message for branding - “don’t visit the respective provider, just visit the OTA”; not cool. A better option is to see if the OTA is keen on promoting value-adds such as free car parking, free internet, or 2 for 1 breakfast - whatever has the least effect on bottom line.
We know when Wellington will be quiet; unlike most New Zealand hotspots, our traveler demographic is slightly different. Within Australia we try to marry these times up with periods when we know that airfares are going to be affordable. Whilst we know January isn’t peak in Wellington, it is on trans-Tasman airfares - so pushing a $99 hotel deal with a $700 return flight holds less appeal than a $129 with a $349 return flight deal. Naturally it is different for the domestic market. We aim to push such activity to encourage travel from April – October, working through their own channels - things like solus emails (an email solely about Wellington), buying space on their site, and for the big guys that have greater market share in Australia we have ran some outdoor and radio work.
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.