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Jumping On The Bandwagon

by fatweb


An estimated 85,000 visitors, most from corporate backgrounds and high socio-economic groups, have for the Rugby World Cup.

Expected to inject anything from $500-$700 million into the economy, the old saying about making hay while the sun shines applies to the RWC influx.

But once the sun sets on our rugby party, is there a way to continue harvesting the crop?

Bridget Gourlay spoke to central North Island tourism leaders to find out what they are doing to lure visitors in the short term and how the efforts put in place for RWC are expected to impact on the next decade of tourist activity.

Rotorua has been a tourist destination for more than a century. In the 1800s, Maori guides showed tourists from New Zealand and overseas the Pink and White Terraces. Although they were destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1886, today Rotorua is still a hub for tourism. Its cultural offerings, extreme sports and the famed hot pools draw in the crowds.

One strategy Destination Rotorua Marketing (DRM) has for luring tourists during the Rugby World Cup is its ‘Mini-Rotorua’ in downtown Auckland. Number One Queen Street, right on the waterfront is passed by an estimated 25,000 people a day. This number will skyrocket during the Cup. DRM will use the space for a multi-layered programme of activities, which it hopes will sell the unique environment and experiences of Rotorua as soon as tourists arrive in the country.

DRM’s acting general manager Tania Bui says they’ll have a downtown presence until late March 2012. “We will have Rugby World Cup tourists but also have a number of cruiseships coming in over that period. We want to capture them so they are aware of Rotorua — how they can book a rental car or bus to help them come across from Tauranga.”

One interesting statistic, indicative of today’s technological age, is that 75 percent of all travel research is done online. Tania Bui says DRM has spent money on ad words, but is also concentrating on “making sure the website is well-optimised so we’re using the power of search engines instead of ad words — because the word ‘holiday’ for example is expensive!”

Bui points out that it’s about more than just tourists. “We’re going to have approximately 3000 media in the country, following their teams around.” That’s exposure for each region to an international audience that very rarely comes about.

Rotorua will be holding matches between Ireland, Russia, Fiji, Samoa and Namibia. To set itself apart, Rotorua will, for example, be showing off its sporting institute — a point of interest for rugby journos.


Hosting hijinks

Destination Great Lake Taupo general manager Scott Pearson says one of the first things it and other local agencies did when New Zealand won the World Cup rights in 2005 was put in an application to host key teams.

There were many hoops to jump through, but Taupo was given South Africa, Wales and Ireland to host for part of the tournament. In celebration of this, Taupo will be putting on events to welcome and celebrate those teams, and to show off New Zealand to them.

Taupo is trying to market itself to tourists as the place to stay between games as a base, because of its central location and beautiful scenery.

To get on their radar, Taupo launched a specialised Taupo2011 website for digital traffic. It also met with Official Tour Agents in Europe and the UK, selling Taupo to them — trying to get package tour groups to stay for longer.

“It’s all about trying to increase guest nights and visitor spend,” Pearson says.

Seaside success

Like Taupo, Tauranga isn’t holding any games, but is still expecting a large slice of the tourism pie. “We jumped on the bandwagon pretty early,” says Glenn Ormsby, general manager of Tourism Bay of Plenty.

“About three years ago when the Official Travel Agents (OTAs) were appointed, what we did was contact every OTA around the world. We told them who we are, where we are and what we had to offer. Out of that we were especially lucky with the French — we’re expecting 1700 French in various stages.

“We got onto it early. We’re encouraging people to use the Bay of Plenty as a homebase – it’s only two and a half hours to Auckland and quite central.

“People can swim with whales, canoe and see glow-worms. And we’re used to accommodating for heaps of people because of our large summer season. We can provide upmarket apartments and hotels on the waterfront to camping.”

One big bonus, Ormsby says, are extra cruise ships scheduled to call during the tournament. “Potentially that’s another five thousand (visitors) in the region, leading up to our (summertime) cruise season.

“We’ve got 82 ships this year compared to 52 last year — that’s 202,000 people all up for the season including crew. This is very important for our region.”

Wowing and wooing 85,000 visitors takes a lot of effort. That’s why there will be festivals and events to show off the country throughout the Rugby World Cup.

“When they’re coming through our region they’re not just looking at the attractions or the beautiful lakes, they’re taking in everything from the locally sourced wooden furniture they’re sitting on to the food and cuisine,” Destination Rotorua Marketing’s Tania Bui says.  

Look out for NZ Flair, a three-day event in Hamilton in mid-October, showcasing innovation and capability in aviation design, manufacturing, maintenance, repair and operation (MRO) and pilot training.

In Taupo, an expo at the Clean Energy Centre will showcase a range of sustainable technologies.

The travelling REAL NZ Festival aims to show off our vibrant arts scene, history and food. For example, two photography exhibitions will tour — one a series of iconic All Black images by Peter Bush and the other called ‘Half Time and Oranges’.

Travelling theatre by Taki Rua Productions, the national Maori Theatre Company, called ‘Strange Resting Places’ will incorporate dance, waiata and music to tell the story of the relationship between an Italian and a Maori soldier during World War II.

Some of the events are annual occasions with a twist such as the 60-year-old Hawke’s Bay’s Blossom Festival parade. This year there will be a special welcome to the French and Canadian teams, in town to play in Napier the following day.


Future fortune

Tourism operators say the Rugby World Cup will be more than just a busy few weeks in spring 2011. They hope that it will be successful in bringing people here in the long term too.

“The word of mouth that will come through from people’s Rugby World Cup experiences we will see in the next European winter — the New Zealand summer of 2012-13,” Tania Bui says.

“The European markets including the UK are still in the grips of financial hell and maintaining the flow from those markets is important. The Rugby World Cup will give those markets greater exposure. That will hopefully offset in the next 36 months some of the impact from economic environment.”

She’s also hoping to attract some of the Australian ski market. “Everyone knows about South Island skifields. But we’ve been doing campaigns and we’re hoping people, especially Aussies visiting Rotorua, will realise they can ski here next winter.”

From his contacts with tour agents overseas, Destination Great Lake Taupo’s Scott Pearson has heard that the headline-making Christchurch earthquake has meant many people have thought New Zealand is more damaged than it actually is.

“What people retain, when they hear the news overseas, is that New Zealand has challenges and their first reaction is to step back a little bit.

“The advantage pre-tournament is that people are realising through the media that we are still open for business. If we hadn’t had the World Cup we may have seen a lot of people putting New Zealand to one side for this year.”

Despite all the cutting edge marketing like social media and Google ad words, or the big spending on things like the Giant Rugby Ball, Pearson agrees with Bui that it’s individual experiences that resonate the most.

“Word of mouth is still the biggest contributor to bring people down to New Zealand. That’s why it’s so important we show everybody a good time.

“A successful tournament will certainly help us; it will have a legacy like the Lord of the Rings did. There’s nothing like getting people down here experiencing our region and seeing the scenery and activities.”

For more information on events supporting the Rugby World Cup, check out:
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Images provided courtesy of Destination Rotorua

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