New Zealand is a bucket-list destination that reopened to international tourism in May 2022.
From its biggest challenges towards recovery to its most-anticipated global event of the year, Tourism New Zealand CEO René de Monchy discusses it all in an exclusive interview with TravelPulse.
The travel industry is an important and integral part of New Zealand’s economy: “Pre-pandemic, tourism was New Zealand’s number one export earner, and it was also the number one employer,” de Monchy explained. “The U.S. was the third-largest market.”
The country is also reliant upon trade advisors and the wider travel trade because of its location.
“We are a bit further away, people need to plan, there’s lots of options you can choose, so we engage really strongly with the trade…we do that through webinars, through trainings, and through ongoing content and live events to make sure they’ve got all the latest information to be able to book travel.”
The word “encouraging” demonstrates how New Zealand’s tourism industry is going right now. After having just finished its popular tourism season for both international and domestic travelers, de Monchy noted they’re about halfway back to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, and expects good things to come in 2023.
“We’ve just come through the back end of our summer, so our peak season is December, January, February, and it’s very encouraging to see that at a global level, we’ve been around 50 percent of where we were pre-pandemic, with the U.S. ahead of that curve,” said de Monchy. “The U.S. is about 56 percent of pre-pandemic levels through the end of December.”
He expects the North American market, mostly consisting of Canadians and Americans, to recover faster than other markets, and is already seeing interest for New Zealand’s next summer season.
“Pre-COVID, the international tourism sector out of North America was worth in excess of about a billion U.S. dollars in New Zealand, so if we’re about half of that, I think next year we’ll see a good strong return. There’s good interest again for next summer…”
The country, which opened in May during its winter season, also saw some Americans traveling there off-season, eager to take advantage of its new reopening and the country’s winter offerings.
While New Zealand’s recovery will be gradual, connectivity is the greatest challenge. While demand remains high, supply is “a little bit slower to reactivate,” according to de Monchy.
“We are very reliant on aviation, with Australia being our only short-haul market,” he explained. “What’s been really encouraging is seeing aviation starting to scale back up — and it’s been particularly good when you look at North America.”
In fact, several major airlines have restarted or begun flying new routes between popular airports in the U.S. and destinations in New Zealand, such as Auckland. These include Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Air Canada and United Airlines, giving travelers across North America new ways to get to the country.
“The trip is always the first barrier for people to get over, and the easier it is for people to fly on an airline they’re familiar with from an airport they’re close to, the easier it is for us to convince people to come and make the trip to New Zealand,” said de Monchy.
The destination’s DMO, Tourism New Zealand, launched a global campaign last year called 100% Pure New Zealand, encouraging travelers who want to explore nature and other cultures to visit with the “If You Seek,” slogan.
But perhaps the most exciting thing to look forward to in 2023 is the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is being co-hosted by both New Zealand and Australia later this year.
“We are super excited that in July and August we co-host the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and we will be hosting the U.S. team,” said de Monchy. “They will be based in New Zealand for the first part of the tournament, so we’re really looking forward to that…I think it’ll give us great exposure here in the U.S., because the U.S. team is the world’s number one, and has a strong position going into the tournament.”
The tournament will also be held during the country’s winter season and its typical off-season for tourism, which should help give New Zealand another big boost in arrivals and interest.
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