Who says a destination entity can’t add to your bottom line? Not the agents who recently attended New Zealand’s Kiwi Links program in Los Angeles where they had the opportunity to cash in on two days of intensive information-sharing on destination and product updates—an eye-opening event that highlighted a breadth of product and profit opportunities in that South Pacific marketplace.
For the youngest country on earth, New Zealand possesses a bounty of age-old wisdom, especially when it comes to marketing its wares and drumming up excitement among its distributors.
“Most travel agents who sell Australia also sell New Zealand,” says Annie Dundas, regional manager, USA & Canada, Tourism New Zealand. Indeed, a healthy showing of some of Australia’s top agents from the Premier Aussie Specialist program were vigorously taking notes at the event. But Kiwi Specialists, who now number more than 350 in the United States, are enjoying more than ever the choice and variety New Zealand brings to their bag of tricks.
For those agents who want to find riches in this majestic austral archipelago, the Kiwi Specialist program provides a treasure chest of tools. After signing up at newzealand.com/travel/trade/training, travel sellers embark on a course managed on their own time schedule. To complete the program and gain certification as a Kiwi Specialist, an agent must finish at least 10 course modules, visit New Zealand at least once and attend a training event, such as Kiwi Links.
Participation is free and the benefits are many. Not only will agents know and get the selling points for each of the country’s nine regions, they will know how to build itineraries and work with the top in-bound operators. A certificate for display and use of the Kiwi Specialist will provide improved credibility in the marketplace. Also, continued support through web, support material and invitations to events and FAMs keep specialists up on the rapid pace of change in New Zealand.
“I sell a lot of New Zealand and am finding a growing interest in this region,” says Tracy Anderson of Travel One in Minneapolis. “It’s safe, it’s easy, and it has a lot to offer my clientele, who are mostly luxury clients.”
Kiwi Links is not restricted to specialists. In fact, many of the participants had never visited New Zealand. The program is held most years in the spring at a gateway property near LAX. This year, the program included a stop in Vancouver.
According to Dundas, tourism trends on the rise in New Zealand include golf, wine and food, walking, cultural explorations, soft adventure and self-drive excursions.
“Agents sell a lot of food and wine, also more active themes as visitors seem more and more to be active travelers. This means walks, hikes and wildlife. Visitors from the United States also love to spend time with New Zealand locals, either on farm stays or through a bed & breakfast,” she says. “Medical tourism, too, is on the rise. Springboard Vacations is finding a big market in this, especially when, say, a hip replacement that might cost $75,000 in the United States can cost a third of that in New Zealand and the care is fantastic.”
For golf vacations, the country has more than 400 excellent and scenic courses, Dundas adds, and these can be played for a fraction of what fees cost in the United States and other countries—although golfers will likely wheel their clubs around rather than drive them.
A new cruise product announced at the event, the Ipipiri, brings a perfect complement to land touring along the Bay of Islands. The 151-ft. catamaran puts passengers in the center of Northland history, scenery, wine, produce, art and culture and is expected to launch in September. Rates and programs have not yet been set but information will be available at the website.
Trains, too, have their place in travel to New Zealand. The rails run from Auckland to Wellington where travelers cross the channel by inter-island ferry to the South Island and pick up the line again in Picton. From there they can reach Blenheim, Kaikoura and Christchurch before crossing the middle of the island to the terminus in Greymouth.
About half the visitors from the United States traveling to New Zealand also go to Australia, says Dundas. “But we always hear they wish they had spent more time in New Zealand. Our repeat rate is 40 percent.”