Interview with Gregg Wafelbakker, General Manager Asia, Tourism New Zealand

Our aim is to grow travel intent in India for 2023
/ New Delhi
Interview with Gregg Wafelbakker, General Manager Asia, Tourism New Zealand

Bungy jumping at Kawarau Bridge (PC: AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand)

Having reopened to foreign visitors only in August, Tourism New Zealand is currently focused on building travel intent amongst its target audience in India, says Gregg Wafelbakker, General Manager Asia, Tourism New Zealand in an interview with India Outbound.
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Gregg Wafelbakker

What was the number of Indian visitors to NZ in 2019? Which were key market segments?

Pre-Covid, international visitors contributed close to USD 17.5 billion each year towards New Zealand’s economy. Indian arrivals to New Zealand had demonstrated a strong growth, with holiday arrivals doubling between 2015 – 2019. As of March 2020, before international borders were closed, the total YE arrivals from India into New Zealand was 67,395, with holiday visitors contributing to 40 pc of total Indian arrivals. Indian travellers have a preference to travel in New Zealand’s autumn and spring seasons, providing valuable economic contribution to the tourism industry outside the peak summer season in New Zealand.

Tourism New Zealand’s key target segment in India is independent professionals – people aged between 25- 54 years. These include honeymooners, and couples who travel with other family members like siblings and friends.

How has the revival from India been?

Since New Zealand borders fully reopened only in August, we are awaiting arrival data and insights on Indian travellers at this stage.

What is your target for this year and also for 2023?

New Zealand fully reopened its borders in August, and we know that because of New Zealand’s size and location. Tourism New Zealand will have to work hard to encourage visitation post-Covid, with international visitor numbers taking years to build up. Our marketing strategy in India for FY23 is to grow travel intent for New Zealand among our target audience, which predominantly includes independent professionals, and support conversions through trade partnerships. New Zealand is a niche destination, so our marketing activity needs to work hard to target select audiences of people who already have New Zealand on their radar and convert that interest into action.

We recently launched our first global campaign in two years, If You Seek with the aim of tapping into the minds of curious travellers who wish to seek more, experience something beyond the usual travel experiences and embark on a journey of a lifetime. We want to showcase New Zealand via our warm and friendly people, stunning wildlife, scrumptious food and wine offerings, among the many other jewels this country has to offer. We will also support our partners by providing information and references that facilitate ease of travel planning with information around health and safety, destination readiness and travel protocols when it comes to its tourists. Tourism New Zealand will focus on working with select trade partners in India to convert our target audience into New Zealand arrivals.

What kind of on-the-ground activities are you planning in India?

We have recently launched our global campaign If You Seek in India across print and digital media channels through our key travel trade partners like Thomas Cook, Kulin Kumar Holidays and MakeMyTrip, to convert pent-up demand for New Zealand and boost recovery. We will continue to work towards growing travel intent for New Zealand and accelerating conversions through a mix of earned and trade initiatives by maximising partnerships in market.

Tourism New Zealand’s key target segment in India continues to be independent professionals – people aged between 25-54 years

What is new in post-pandemic New Zealand?

While the country was under lockdown for two years, New Zealand’s tourism industry continued to develop new and innovative experiences and activities for visitors to experience when the borders reopen. There was a focus on curating new offerings in every sector, be it stays, activities, food, and beverage.

We now have hotels that are committed to environmental sustainability, such as the Falcon Brae on the South Island, which is not connected to the national electricity grid, or the Voco Auckland City, which is aiming for a Level 3/Level 4 Green Engage designation by putting various sustainable initiatives into place. Many of our tourism businesses, such as Raglan Rock in Raglan, Eden Park in Auckland, and Dive Tatapouri in Gisborne, are setting the bar for transformative, regenerative vacation experiences in New Zealand by offering eco-conscious services and supporting their home communities.

Which are your focus segments in India now? How has it changed from earlier?

Our target audience in India are not just aware of New Zealand, but seriously consider New Zealand as one of their preferred holiday destinations. These are people who already have New Zealand on their top five holiday destinations list and can be called active considerers. These are high-quality visitors who will contribute positively to our culture, environment, economy, and communities while they visit.

As earlier, Tourism New Zealand’s key target segment in India continues to be independent professionals – people aged between 25-54 years. There is also a market for corporate business events and incentive groups. Indian holiday visitors pre-Covid accounted for almost half of the total arrivals and a strong Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) component.

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