Creating awareness about New Zealand’s diverse tourism products a major challenge in India: Steven Dixon

Steven Dixon, Regional Manager, South and South-East Asia, Tourism New Zealand is bullish on the Indian market. His optimism is based on growing interest among the outbound in New Zealand, making India one of the top ten source market for the Island nation. Having appointed Siddharth Malhotra as the brand ambassador to broaden market outreach, NZ has been successful in grabbing the attention of new-age travellers, seeking the ‘experiential quotient’. Excerpts from an exclusive interview.

Steven Dixon,Regional ManagerThe overall tourism offerings is mind-boggling, and if you club New Zealand together with Australia, given it being a long-haul destination, the tourism bouquet is extensive, to say the least. However, the knowledge of the Indian outbound is quite limited to mountains and sceneries and the larger product of the country remains relatively unknown. How are you increasing the outreach?

It is true that New Zealand is very well known for its spectacular landscapes, mountains, lakes and beaches. The biggest challenge, and it is a great challenge to have, is that there is so much more to do and see than just experiencing mountains and landscapes. Whether it is our adventure tourism; whether it is our amazing food and wine, and local produce; our vineyards or the cultural activities that we have, there is so much to do and see.

The challenge that we have is packaging all of that together and promoting it in the Indian market. Our new campaign, ‘one journey leads to another’ has been launched through our global partner, Facebook and messaging through search and we have spent a lot of time in this market, working through digital campaign. We have pushed that out and it highlights different regions of New Zealand that one can go, and also just how much you can do there. So, that is one way that we talk about New Zealand in India.

3The other way is through our trade marketing program. We know that travel trade in India is critically important and we work closely with them to educate and train them. We have just launched the ‘New Zealand Specialist’ program in this market which aims at creating 100% pure New Zealand specialist. Currently, we have 560 qualified New Zealand specialists and that is really exciting for us. We have launched our campaign where we will give away four trips to New Zealand in November this year for people that become ‘New Zealand Gold Specialist’. We also operate an international media program where we invite key media from India down to New Zealand and let them experience various parts of the country. We have obviously been working with Bollywood star Siddharth Malhotra.

How has been the experience of appointing a brand ambassador. In the recent years, a number of countries have appointed Indian celebrities to push for a stronger brand recall. How has the impact of appointing a face for promoting New Zealand tourism been?

2It has been absolutely phenomenal. The biggest challenge that we had and, again, it was an exciting challenge – we had the Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in 2015. We saw an amazing growth in numbers because of the event. The challenge was how do we keep the growth going? We identified Siddharth as our brand ambassador for New Zealand and we have been working him now for two years. He is genuinely passionate about New Zealand and his work has generated about 3,000 individual stories, and has generated ten million dollars’ worth of advertising in the media.

We are seeing the most number of Indians visiting New Zealand in the history on record. The growth is really strong, in double-digits. So, it has had a massive impact in the market.

What are some key domestic markets here in India. We understand that there must be some destinations with robust air-connectivity, gateway cities – which are plenty. We have Air India flying into Australia….

Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airways, all of them have good connections through Australia.

11And you have plenty of adventure offerings, something that young Indians would definitely take to. So, is all of it reflecting in overall numbers?

We do not target specific regions, necessarily. We focus on the consumer. So what we look at is what we call ‘independent professionals’, aged between 25-54. And within that there are a couple of subsets. One would be the honeymoon segment, and second would be people who are travelling with or without family. These are the two subsets. The honeymoon segment has always been incredibly strong for us. It continues to mature and develop. It is that second sector which is we are trying to work closely with the travel trade segment. We see great growth coming out of the north of India, in the second sector, partly in May and June – which is I guess the vacation time here in India.

Could you give us some numbers? Anything that you would like to share?

Arrivals are at 55,000 in 2016 and footfalls is growing at over 15% y-o-y. It is very handsome and stronger than the outbound growth. And out of the total numbers, about half of them come for holidays, which is exciting.

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