TORONTO — With so many of the outbound gateways to New Zealand located on the west coast of Canada and the U.S., it can be a bit of a struggle to get tourism from the eastern side. That’s why Tourism New Zealand along with Air New Zealand and 11 local tourist board and tour operators are visiting 15 cities in two weeks with the group coming to Toronto yesterday to chat to travel agents about the products they can book.
At the event, each organization took a chance to let agents know a bit about their product and how to book your clients to this bucket list location.
Here are a few highlights from the event …
Tourism New Zealand
Movies continue to showcase New Zealand with Disney’s Pete’s Dragon currently in theatres. Meanwhile James Cameron is living in New Zealand and writing sequels to Avatar, which he plans to film in New Zealand. And Scarlett Johansson’s latest film, Ghost in the Shell, due out in 2017, was filmed in New Zealand.Renata West, Trade Development Executive from Tourism New Zealand for North America, urged agents to share the trailers for the movies with the agent’s own call-to-action to spark interest and sell the destination. The trailers, as well as details about filming locations, can be found on the trade website traveltrade.newzealand.com.
The tourism board also provided research that showed why clients are interested in New Zealand. Their interests include landscapes, Maori culture, culinary, wildlife, golfing, fishing and spa services.
Travel agents are a big focus for the country with the trade website offering an Explore Card that gives visiting agents over 1,000 offers. They also have their 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist program that agents can take at traveltrade.newzealand.com.
Air New Zealand
The national airline has six gateways for the Americas with Houston being pushed as a great option for clients on the eastern side of North America. For clients who may be deterred by the long-haul flight, the airline has put a focus on comfort with seats that convert to beds in Business Premier and a new addition of 1.5” memory foam mattress, an award-winning premium economy, and the Sky Couch in economy which allows two passengers to convert three seats into a bed.Currently Vancouver and Houston have these seating arrangements with the San Francisco and Los Angeles planes being retrofitted in early 2017. See airnewzealand.ca.
Polynesian Spa Rotorua
Polynesian Spa is recognized as one of the top 10 spas in the world according to Conde Nast. The spa has access to two natural springs which feed into 27 pools. They offer large pool areas, family pools, as well luxury spas on the lake and private pools. They recently invested in a new lakeside pool as well investing $1 million in refurbishing all their change rooms. For more information, go to polynesianspa.co.nz.
TIME Unlimited Tours
The Auckland day-tour company recently won the National Geographic World Legacy Award for Best Sense of Place. They recommend their tours before or after a cruise for clients wanting to experience a bit more of Auckland and its surrounding areas before departing. They tailor their tours and love working with agents to make the best possible trip for the client. For more information, go to newzealandtours.travel.
Te Puia in Rotorua is home to the largest and most active geyser in the southern hemisphere. It is also a school for Maori culture and arts which is completely self-funded by tourism. For more information, go to tepuia.com.
KiwiRail offers scenic rail trips through the north and south islands with the Interislander offering a ferry service between the two islands. The rail trip offers and alternative for travellers who may be a bit weary of driving on the other side of the road or just want to break up the trip with a different mode of transport.Interislander is also offering a Premium Plus option on their ferries, with all-you-can-eat (and drink), lounge seating and no children allowed. For passengers with kids, another area of the ship includes a play area to keep them entertained. It’s recommended to book with an agent; that way passengers can get a cheaper price than booking on the day. See kiwirail.co.nz.
Ngai Tahu Tourism
Ngai Tahu is a Maori trust that runs and operates some of the most iconic New Zealand adventures. The Shot Over Jet and Huka Falls Jet are considered must-dos in New Zealand with clients such William & Kate, Hugh Jackman and Gandalf himself (Sir Ian McKellan).Other products include guided walks, which have been popular with North American clients. A new product they offer is the Hollyford Track, a three-day valley walk. With a no major inclines, it is suited for most fitness levels and clients will enjoy cuisine prepared and served by friendly lodge hosts while relaxing in comfortable private lodges at night.
For more information, go to ngaitahutourism.co.nz.
Marlborough and Nelson Tasman
Some 70% of New Zealand’s wine is made in the Malborough region, which also happens to be the country’s sunniest area. Abel Tasman National Park also boats dolphins, seals and orcas. Nelson Lakes National Park is also home to Blue Lake, which lays claim to the clearest natural fresh water in the world.Biking has become a big draw with the government investing heavily in trails. They have an American gold standard mounting biking trail as well as low grade bike trails. Craft breweries have also become popular for the city, with 13 popping up recently. See nelsonnz.com.
Christchurch and Canterbury
After the 2009 earthquakes, the country’s second biggest city is rebuilding with a lot to see for tourists. Part of the change in the area is that many operators have developed outside of the city after the quake. One upcoming attraction is a new adventure park with a zip line that will be more than one kilometre long.
Another popular area is Hanmer Springs, 90 minutes from Christchurch and famous for its natural springs. The tourism board notes that the Tranz Alpine train offered by KiwiRail – the one that goes between Greymouth and Christchurch – seems to be particularly popular with Canadian travellers. For more information, go to christchurchnz.com.
Whale Watch Kaikoura
With another shout out to KiwiRail, the office for Whale Watch Kaikoura is located at the Kaikoura train stop. The main attraction for the operator is the giant Sperm Whale that lives in the area all year long. The most popular sight is seeing the whale’s tail breach – which the company boasts a 95% chance of seeing. Visitors have also seen 1,000s of dolphins in a pod, as well as 14 other species of whale including Blue, Humpback, Pilot and Orca whales.For peace of mind, if no whales are seen, then a 80% refund is given. Also, if the sea is too rough, clients will be transferred to another operator to see the whales by plane – at no extra cost. See whalewatch.co.nz.
This family-run business operates out of Queenstown and offers bespoke tours that can include picnics on mountaintops. The helicopters can hold up six people and they love to chat to agents to find out what the client is looking for and creating a catered experience. See helitours.co.nz.
GreatSights New Zealand
GreatSights is a premier sightseeing tour company that has over 50 day tours on offer. The company recently purchased an extra 13 luxury coaches and guarantee departures for their guests.Popular tours include the Hobbiton trip, which they recommend booking with a operator as the attraction turns away 500 people a day.
The Hole in the Rock Dolphin cruise in the Bay of Islands is also popular, with a lifetime ticket for another trip given if no dolphins are seen. The company recently honoured a ticket from 16 years a go.
Another trip that was recently voted more popular than iconic Milford Sound, is the Cape Reinga trip. The area is sacred to the Maori culture and gives client a history lesson about the traditions of the area as well as the area’s natural beauty. See greatsights.co.nz.