In early May, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand will not have open borders with the rest of the world for “a long time to come”.
That is a sobering statement for a business community, especially in Queenstown Lakes District, which has been built to appeal to international customers and their holiday dollars.
While a trans-Tasman bubble will be created as soon as safety allows, it is the domestic market that will provide most customers and opportunities for the foreseeable future.
So how will businesses pivot from an international focus to drawing custom from their fellow Kiwis and permanent residents who’ve made New Zealand their home?
John Miles, chief executive of the New Zealand Marketing Association, says it will be about identifying and understanding the customer, then a combination of tactical marketing, creativity, collaboration and good old-fashioned graft.
“You’ve got to ask yourself, who is your customer? Who are you trying to sell to?
“Because if you start from there, you can then look at your products and services, how they might be relevant to those people or how you can adapt those products and services to meet those markets.
“It’s back to basics.”
Miles gives the example of a high-end golf club, which would usually have international tourists paying healthy green fees, such as Kauri Cliffs Golf Club.
“They might look at reducing fees or collaborating with other businesses in the area on a package, so New Zealand golfers who previously thought it was too expensive to play there will think ‘ok, it’s expensive but not out of my league’.
“That’s the sort of thinking businesses need.”
Miles says Queenstown businesses should work together.
“I’m a great believer in clusters and one plus one equals three, especially for Queenstown now.
“Because if you group together with other businesses targeting the same market, you can create a better package that will encourage people to visit.”
Scope Media clients Totally Tourism and Altitude Tours / Black ZQN have already announced such a collaboration, looking to capture some of the $23.7 billion a year New Zealanders spend on domestic tourism.
Miles’ Marketing Association, which has more than 8000 marketers as members, has itself had to roll its sleeves up and get creative.
“We had to completely overhaul our business. We’re face-to-face, but went online, managed to come up with a good idea for a workshop and asked one of the best marketers in the world, Mark Ritson, and he agreed to it.”
The Work from Home Marketing Bootcamp concept shows how businesses can adapt, while drawing on existing resources.
“I hadn’t met Mark before, but I approached him with a very considered pitch.
“You could call it a fishing expedition, I’m a great believer in the old saying ‘you never know unless you ask’, but it was one done on a sound strategy.
“I’d thought it through in detail and knew what we could deliver as an organisation.”
Marketing the $395 webinar series was a combination of old school and modern methods.
“In terms of our tactics, we did spend some money on LinkedIn, because it was a business product.
“We also posted on our individual social media accounts, I happened to mention it a few times on media, and we hit the phones too.
“And we did partnerships, which goes back to collaboration. We worked with NZME and said to help their clients, we’d make the first workshop free for them. That got us exposure to 40,000 of their clients we hadn’t worked with before.
“You’ve got to think creatively the whole time. There is no one Nirvana for any of this. It is a series of customer touch points.
“That’s why you must look at your own assets as a company – what is my expertise, what mates do I have that can give me a hand?”
Miles says the revenue from the workshop product will help NZMA in the short term.
“And it’s also exposed us to a whole new market we didn’t have before, and we can launch products off the back of that.”
One example of a Queenstown business thinking creatively is First Table. The tech company, which works with restaurants around the world to provide discounts for diners who book tables at off-peak times, has obviously been set back by the lockdowns.
Over the weekend, it launched a new business First EATS, a free directory of New Zealand restaurants focused on takeaway services, including details of deliveries and pick-ups.
Ardern last month urged people to shop local in level three and order direct from restaurants wherever possible to avoid the high surcharges of the likes of Uber Eats. The directory helps them do that.
Miles says all Queenstown businesses, whether they be small family businesses or multi-nationals, should look to continue marketing along as many channels as possible. Freezing all marketing spend would be a “recipe for disaster”.
“Short term, understand your customers, get your tactics together and then help each other.”
Data about domestic tourists is being compiled by Tourism New Zealand, which was tasked by the Government to refocus from international tourism.
Bjoern Spreitzer, who’s been with TNZ for 14 years and was until recently focused on the Americas and Europe, is the new general manager domestic.
“We’re going to lean in heavily, support the industry and get the country moving again through domestic tourism,” he says.
“That’s exciting and there are huge opportunities for businesses, I can say that with confidence looking at the numbers.”
While the $17.2 billion international tourism expenditure won’t be there in the short term, New Zealanders spend about $9.2 billion overseas each year, while the domestic market is $23.7bn.
“In the long term, this will create a more sustainable industry if we can get Kiwis excited about a holiday in New Zealand, if we can steal some of that overseas spend.
“We know we have great products, so how do we get New Zealanders to look at New Zealand differently as a holiday destination that will lead to them picking different activities they might not have considered before?”
Spreitzer says the commercial sector is already skilled at adapting its products to different markets, from European to Japanese, to Chinese, to now domestic.
“We’ll be running campaigns and businesses can also get insights from us, and from their regional tourism organisation, such as Destination Queenstown.
“We’re focused on how we can improve those insights, so the businesses have better intelligence about what the domestic customer actually wants.”
There is data available through TNZ collated in 2016 by the Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand.
“We’re going to update that and we’re also putting some tailor-made research into market right now, in terms of understanding where do New Zealanders currently sit, are they ready for travel and what are they looking for.”
That will take a few months to come through but will be made available on the TNZ website.
“Over the next 12 months, we’ll have better and better insights we’re able to share with operators.”
Written by Paul Taylor, a freelance journalist based in Queenstown.
This article was commissioned by Scope Media.