Story: Tourist industry

Page 6. Tourism boom

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New Zealand gets a night life

By 1985 annual tourist numbers had reached half a million for the first time and, with Air New Zealand’s new wide-bodied Boeing 767s, numbers were on the increase. Tourism became the fifth-highest earner of overseas funds. With the industry less dependent on government subsidies for survival, the government sold Tourist Hotel Corporation hotels to private companies. Deregulation in other areas made New Zealand more attractive to tourists – alcohol availability was liberalised and shop hours extended. Night-life, cafés and restaurants took off.

Extreme New Zealand

In the late 1980s rugged landscapes became the backdrop for adrenalin thrills. A precedent had been set in 1970 when Bill Hamilton’s jet boat was adapted for tourist rides in Queenstown’s Shotover Gorge. In 1988 A. J. Hackett and Henry van Asch set up bungy jumping from the Kawarau River bridge. More high-velocity activities followed, and Queenstown was soon being marketed as the adventure capital of the world. Other extreme activities, like sky diving and black-water rafting, were developed in different regions; innovative companies became million-dollar businesses and New Zealand gained a fresh image as a country of exhilarating adventures.

Leap of faith

Bungy jumping is based on a Vanuatu ritual, where young men leap from towers with vines attached to their ankles. Bungy jumping was developed in New Zealand by A. J. Hackett and his partner Henry von Asch, after three years of experimentation with different cords. From 1988 the world’s first commercial bungy jump hurled participants 43m off the Kawarau River bridge, near Queenstown. The company opened the 134-metre Nevis Bungy, the highest in Australasia, in July 1999.

At the same time, ecotourism was developing, led by Whale Watch Kaikoura (which took visitors to see whales off the Kaikōura coast). Its huge success encouraged a raft of small businesses that focused on viewing seals, dolphins and other wildlife. The Tamaki brothers’ new slant on a ‘living village’ at Rotorua (offering a Māori cultural experience for tourists), and Whale Watch Kaikoura, typified the way in which Māori were once again initiating important tourist ventures.

100% Pure New Zealand

Rising tourist numbers gave the industry the confidence to call for a more entrepreneurial approach to marketing New Zealand. In 1990 the Tourist Department was disbanded and replaced by a smaller policy unit. Most of the government’s support for tourism was redirected to the New Zealand Tourist Board, composed of leaders in the tourist industry. The board became responsible for marketing the country internationally. Their tactical marketing campaigns encouraged short-term growth, but led to disenchantment when numbers slumped during the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98.

Giving it 100%

When M&C Saatchi chose the tag-line of ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ they wanted a visual ‘hook’ to attract attention. It was a creative director in Singapore who had the idea of integrating the distinctive shape of New Zealand into the percentage sign.

Radical changes to marketing New Zealand as a destination came in 1999 when Tourism New Zealand (the renamed government tourist agency), moved away from a fragmented approach of one-off campaigns in different countries. The international advertising company M&C Saatchi designed a unified global campaign to be used consistently in New Zealand’s eight major markets. The bold, concise statement of the tagline – 100% Pure New Zealand – was aligned with images of sweeping landscapes.

Marketing methods

Innovative use of technology put New Zealand ahead of other national tourist campaigns. The site www.newzealand.com was integrated into all 100% Pure New Zealand publicity. By 2008 it was attracting almost 11 million visits a year. In 2006 Tourism New Zealand was at the forefront of advertising via podcasts, mobile phones and electronic billboards. It bought out the front page of YouTube for 24 hours, and inserted tourist sites into a layer on Google Earth (an online digital map of the world).

The 100% Pure campaign benefited from the successes of the America’s Cup yacht races in New Zealand and the wine and film industries. The stunning landscapes shown in the Lord of the rings film trilogy added to the country’s appeal. New Zealand was also viewed as a safe haven in an era of international crises such as the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, the Bali bombings of 2002, and the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in Asia in 2003. Visitor numbers from 1999 to 2004 rose at an average 7% per year, compared with an average of 3% for other countries. Tourist activities expanded to encompass the World of WearableArts and ‘voluntourism’ (tourists doing some voluntary work as part of their experience).

How to cite this page:

Margaret McClure, 'Tourist industry - Tourism boom', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/tourist-industry/page-6 (accessed 20 October 2018)

Story by Margaret McClure, published 11 Mar 2010