How the tourism industry is preparing for 2021

NZ Tourism

While Kiwi tourism businesses have had a tough 2020, there's plenty you can do to help make 2021 yours for the taking – just ask these experts.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:

  • Have a plan to attract travel-hungry Aussie travellers.
  • Use this time to expand and hone your offering.
  • Think of some quick cash flow wins to help get you through the lean times.
  • Shift your advertising spend to local platforms to attract local customers.

As of March 2019, international tourists contributed 20.4% to New Zealand’s total exports of goods and services, and the industry employed 229,566 people, meaning 8.4% of employed New Zealanders worked in the tourism industry before COVID-19 forced border closures and local lockdowns.

“The impact has been significant,” says Trish May, a marketing and communications consultant who works with businesses in the New Zealand tourism industry.

But Kiwi tourism operators haven’t let these setbacks get them down. In fact, says May, many are using the time to review and improve their processes, preparing for an eventual influx and hopefully prosperous 2021. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Getting ready for an Aussie influx

Even though the timing of a trans-tasman bubble reopening might be uncertain, smart Kiwi tourism businesses are starting to lay the groundwork to attract keen Aussie travellers itching for an overseas trip – that’s what May is telling her clients.

“I’m saying to them, ‘We don’t know when, but it’s going to open at some stage, hopefully soon. What is your marketing activity going to be to encourage Australians to your business?”

One business with an eye on potential Australian visitors is rental company Camplify.

“We describe Camplify as being a little bit like Airbnb but for motorhomes, camper vans and caravans,” says founder Justin Hales. “We provide a way for owners of vehicles… to rent them out when they’re not using them.”

Image: Camplify

While Camplify has always serviced the domestic market, and will continue to, Hales wants to make sure his business is prepared when Aussie travellers are allowed into the country.

“Our number one thing right now is just acquiring more [partners],” he says. “We’re looking for more people with caravans, motorhomes and campervans to list on the platform. [We need to] onboard them, educate them, take them through the process and make sure they’re getting the right insurances in place, so they can be ready.”

Target the early planner for a quick cash flow win

While foreign tourists might be keen to dream up a trip to New Zealand, the reality is that even when the borders reopen, it could be some time before things actually pick up as people will have to plan holidays around their schedules.

However, certain businesses can still bring some cash in by promoting their services to the early planners out there. May says while someone might not be planning a trip until the tail end of 2021, they might want to lock in their accommodation or a rental car in advance.

“Our beautiful scenery and our mountains and our wonderful manaakitanga – our friendly welcome – is still going to be there. I am optimistic about the future.” – Trish May, marketing consultant
Savvy business owners could skew their marketing budget towards these quick cash wins in the interim in order to see them through any quieter times and secure future bookings.

How would you go about doing this? In an article for HospitalityNet, Alexander Galarraga advises tourism operators to reconnect with past customers and offer incentives for future bookings.

“Offer great rates (but don’t go too low), free breakfast, free resort credits, free additional nights and most importantly free date changes on all prepaid bookings,” he says.

“These prepaid bookings will help you get the necessary cash flow. This will also inspire more guests to book directly with you, which will mean a higher [net average daily rate] because the bookings aren’t costing you commissions.”

One of May’s clients, the Edgewater Hotel in Wanaka, had to shift from serving a customer base that was 75% international to one that was 100% domestic. A quick cash win for them was to rebrand some of their rooms.

They introduced greater price variation among rooms, and began advertising them as having particular qualities – “garden view” rooms, for instance, which were priced more attractively to lure customers or upgraded deluxe suites that were at the higher end of the price range.

Appeal to local tourists

It’s Kiwi money that has kept the industry going this year and May encourages small business owners to keep them in mind – even when international visitors return.

Earlier in the year, as well as adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, Edgewater Hotel marketed its business to potential Kiwi travellers.

“We undertook a major digital advertising campaign – so social media and Google Ads – and then in print media,” May says.

“As we speak, we’re actually doing a campaign in Auckland with bus-backs and bus shelters. The aim was [to shift] very quickly towards the domestic market.”

Camplify also relied on the domestic market after the COVID-19 restrictions hit.

“We knew people would have a pent-up demand and anxiety to want to get back into nature,” Hales says. “And the reality of an RV holiday is that it’s fully self-contained. It’s fully self-managed; you can go wherever you want to go.”

Local tourist

Image: Camplify

Appetite is increasing from locals for these quick trips into nature, he says.

“In the last 30 days, the average time between someone listing on the platform and getting [our clients] first booking request was one day and 21 minutes.”

That’s a big improvement over this time last year, when the average time to a customer’s first booking request was 23 days.

Stay positive – you’ve got this!

While 2020 hasn’t been easy, May says she sees bright times ahead.

“We have a rich tourism experience to offer [in New Zealand], and that hasn’t gone away,” she says.

“That richness is still there, our beautiful scenery and our mountains and our wonderful manaakitanga – our friendly welcome – is still going to be there. I am optimistic about the future.”

Want to retarget your marketing campaign to lure in more local customers? A Prospa Small Business Loan could offer you the funding to make this happen. Talk to one of our small business lending specialists for more information – call 0800 005 797.

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