Breaking news

Hot Off The Press

Santo impresses agents, Tanna stands strong

Friday, 31 July 2015 07:45

The quality of product available on Espiritu Santo was ‘extremely impressive’ according to Kiwi product managers on the Vanuatu Tourism Office famil, who were especially surprised with the amount of high end, luxury accommodation.

Wendy Graham, Lifestyle Holidays found the trip eye opening. ‘Lifestyle Holidays primarily focuses on four to five star properties, and Santo’s new and upgraded luxury accommodation was encouraging to see.’

Desiree Dick, Flight Centre, says the island visit greatly exceeded her expectations. ‘The properties ranged from entry level to high end - products that can fit any budget or client. I really am excited for the future of the destination, and can move forward selling Santo’s product with confidence.’

New properties include Sunrise Beach Cabanas. This consists of three deluxe villas on the beach, with five more to be completed by the end of the year; Hidden Cove Eco Retreat, ‘off the grid’, self sufficient property situated on the east coast of the island, containing tented villas which each include private facilities, decks and plunge pools; and Aore Adventure Sports & Lodge – self contained beach properties with diving and fishing packages.

Coral Quays Fish and Dive Resort has upgraded its dive operations with the latest equipment available, while soft refurbishments have taken place in all rooms.

Deco Stop Lodge’s rooms have all been upgraded with paint and new linen, while The Espiritu has also upgraded its rooms as well as adding a new pool and restaurant along with a gamer area and bar.

New tour options on the island include the Cruising Safaris, as well as quad bike tours and horse riding.

Tanna back on track

Tanna was one of the islands most damaged by Cyclone Pam, and it has battled to rebuild its name and reputation despite the majority of facilities and activities being available for use.

White Grass Ocean Resort opened its doors just three weeks after the cyclone, and resort manager Sabine Hollerer says it’s been hard changing people’s perception of the island as well as her property.

‘There has been a lot of misinformation going around – everybody has assumed that our property was completely blown away in the cyclone, when in fact we escaped mainly unharmed, with no structural damage and just garden debris.’

Courtesy of Vanuatu Tourism Office, media and trade delegates were recently hosted at White Grass Ocean Resort, venturing out to explore Mt Yasur on the daily Yasur Volcano Tour operated by the resort.

En route to the volcano, attendees were serenaded by a local children’s choir, as well as to take photos of the local countryside and rocky lava terrain surrounding Mt Yasur.

After a short hike to the top of the volcano, clients eventually find themselves standing just metres away from the peak, with spewing lava rocks and thunderous eruptions - no barriers or security restrictions ultimately enhances the experience.

Hollerer says the road heading towards the volcano was affected by the cyclone, but was cleared within two weeks, with tours operating as usual since then.

White Grass also offers cultural village tours, escorting people to the Lokalangia Kustom Village. The village is truly untouched by the western way of life, and the tour provides the opportunity to see it first hand.

Escorted through the kitchens, the villagers showcase how to make laplap, while the children perform a song and dance, and still look incredibly confused at the sight of cameras. The men of the village display their way of starting a fire, before breaking in to a traditional song and dance.

Although there is potential for the experience to feel unauthentic, an English speaking ‘Mamma’ from the village provides information about it’s culture, traditions, medicine, and way of life, while warmly guiding guests through their home.

Nick Kalafetalis is a Kiwi volunteer currently working for the Vanuatu Tourism Office in Port Vila who took part in the trip, and says he will never forget the ‘whirlwind visit to Tanna’.

‘The village tour was a totally unique and surreal experience - seeing a culture untouched by western civilisation and still standing strong after Cyclone Pam is a true testament to the people of Tanna.’


Vanuatu still smiling

Tuesday, 28 July 2015 11:54

Following Cyclone Pam’s devastating effect on the islands of Vanuatu earlier this year, the destination is ready to reestablish itself as a tourism hotspot after large-scale reconstruction across the islands.

This week has seen the first group of visitors from the New Zealand travel trade since the cyclone, with the Vanuatu Tourism Office hosting a group of wholesale product managers to see how the islands are recovering.

Jonas George, office manager Air Vanuatu, says the famil is a chance for both the destination as well as the product managers to ‘put things right’.

‘There has been uncertainty about some of the properties, which has kept people away and prevented agents and wholesalers from selling.

‘It’s great to have the trade back - for them to see what’s up and running and feel comfortable with the destination once again.’

Spending five days exploring Port Vila, Santo and Tanna, the famil is a replacement of sorts for the annual Tok Tok event, which was postponed following the cyclone.

George says since hitting ‘rock bottom’ earlier in the year, visitor numbers are beginning to pick up.

‘Although the big properties (Iririki Island Resort and Holiday Inn Resort) are still undergoing reconstruction, we are seeing a resurgence in couples and solo travellers.’

Alyssa Field, HelloWorld, also says she has seen interest in Vanuatu increase as of late, with more Kiwis looking to get away from the winter weather.

While Kiwi product managers will be refamiliarising themselves with the islands this week, Allan Kalfabun, marketing manager Vanuatu Tourism Office, says the next few weeks will also see agents from Australia and New Caledonia hosted in Port Vila.

‘We’re getting busier, and these visits are extremely important for us so it’s exciting times.’


Business tourism on Hawaii’s agenda

Monday, 27 July 2015 12:28

Hawai’i is on a mission to increase business events related tourism out of New Zealand.

Darragh Walshe, of Hawai’I Tourism Oceania, says the destination is seeing an increase in the high yield meetings and incentive business out of New Zealand but it is not matching the leisure market’s performance.

‘We’ve got all this incredible air lift now so it’s a great opportunity for groups.’

The extra focus on business events is behind a visit by 20 Hawaiian operators who held one on one business meetings and destinational updates with about 25 conference and incentive organisers at Hilton Auckland late July.

Corporate travel agents and incentive operators from Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch joined their Auckland counterparts to be updated on what Hawai’i has to offer business events.

Darragh Walshe, Hawai’i Tourism Oceania, noted and thanked the agents who had come from far afield to attend, as well as staying on for networking drinks and nibbles (when they were joined by key wholesalers, trade media, airline representatives and other key business partners.

The event, ‘Only in Hawai’i’ also coincided with the publication of a new supplement, produced by TRAVELinc in conjunction with Hawai’i Tourism Oceania. Copies of the publication – Only in Hawai’i Your Guide to Meetings and Incentives - were available at the event and can be read online on this website soon.

O’ahu Visitors Bureau’s director of sales, Marie Watanabe, says the level of enquiry is good out of New Zealand. ‘Now we need to convert more of the interest,’ she says. Watanabe adds that the destination is promoting its range of attractions and environments. ‘People think of O’ahu as Waikiki but it is so much more.’ She points to places such as Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore.

Sherry Duong, director of sales, international meetings, conventions and incentives with Maui visitors and convention bureau says all major hotels on the island have been renovated.

Some fantastic prizes were up for grabs, including two air-inclusive trips to Hawai’i (one with Hawaiian Airlines, the other with Air New Zealand), a land only package, and some gifts. Click on the images below to see who won.

Is tourism lacking media coverage?

Friday, 24 July 2015 12:50

Following news that tourism has surpassed the dairy sector as New Zealand’s top foreign exchange earner, Helen Bissett, chief executive Discover NZ, is questioning whether the industry receives enough media attention.
‘I’m not sure whether tourism gets enough kudos in the media for where the industry is going, now that we’re the number one exporter in the country,’ she says.
‘We hear everything about dairy and dairy prices, but rarely do people get to see the other side of the coin – tourism, which is booming.’
Earlier this week, Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts revealed tourism had taken over from dairy as New Zealand’s number one export earner, with official confirmation to be received at a later date.
‘In 2015 we expect export receipts from tourism to be around $12 billion, and it’s well over 10% growth on a year ago,’ he says.
Bissett continues that ‘it’s important for people to realise that there are career opportunities in tourism. In secondary schools, the tourism industry is not really pushed as a viable choice for students.
‘I think there needs to be a shift in the media coverage, about how important tourism is.
‘One in 10 people are either directly or indirectly employed in the tourism industry, which is a huge statistic.’

New exhibitors add to mix at Victoria trade workshops

Thursday, 30 July 2015 07:59

Some exciting ‘first timers’ will be taking part in the Melbourne and Victoria Trade Workshops next month – including the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and National Sports Museum.

Joanna Garrie, regional manager New Zealand with Tourism Victoria, says the venue will be promoting its daily tours and museum product but will also be selling its range of major events.

A completely different new exhibitor is Victoria’s High Country, a region well known for its great mountain biking. ‘This is the home of Pedal to Produce and the Murray to Mountains rail trail,’

Peninsula Hot Springs, Australian Natural Treasures Touring, Yarra Ranges Tourism, and Wildlife Tours Australia, will also be taking part for the first time.

‘The Melbourne Cup carnival will be here too, so that’s a way agents can obtain intimate and detailed information.’

The workshops are visiting Auckland on 10 August and from there travelling to Rotorua, Wellington and Queenstown.

‘We can take more agents in all centres,’ says Garrie, ‘and we are focusing particularly on Rotorua and Wellington.’

Register here

Hospitality industry welcomes immigration changes

Tuesday, 28 July 2015 12:26

The change to the Immigration points system for provincial New Zealand is good news for hospitality, says Bruce Robertson, Hospitality New Zealand chief executive.  

‘There are currently a number of café, restaurant and bar managers working on temporary work permits who do not have enough points to apply for residency.  They have, however, become important and valuable staff members and are making a significant contribution to the businesses they work in and the community.  This change will allow them to apply for residency and continue to make an important contribution to the hospitality sector,’ he says.

‘There simply are not enough New Zealanders able and prepared to take on these roles.’ 

His comments come after Government annunced a package of immigration measures aimed at improving the spread of workers, skills and investment across New Zealand.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says thouands of people from all over the world are moving to New Zealand because it is a good place to live, work and raise a family.’

‘New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs and that won’t change,’ Mr Woodhouse says.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

In addition, from mid-2016 a pathway to residence will be provided for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.‘Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,’ Woodhouse says.

AccorHotels and Velocity partner

Friday, 24 July 2015 13:16

An AccorHotels and Velocity Frequent Flyer partnership announced overnight will allow members to transfer points between both programmes from 30 September 2015.
Both loyalty programmes are free to join. Le Club points are earned from staying at any of the 2,800 participating Accor hotels in 92 countries worldwide. Velocity points are earned on Virgin’s flight network of more than 600 destinations as well as from its retail offering through online Velocity e-store.
Both Le Club AccorHotels and Velocity Frequent Flyer were recognised at the Freddie Awards this year, with Le Club AccorHotels named Hotel Loyalty Program of the Year 2015 in Asia Pacific/Oceania/Middle East as well as taking home Program of the Year for Europe/Africa. Velocity Frequent Flyer was named Program of the Year, Best Redemption Availability and Best Customer Service for Asia Pacific. The Freedie Awards recognise the best loyalty programmes as voted by frequent travellers and industry experts.

Discover NZ 'charging ahead'

Friday, 24 July 2015 12:57

A new name and message is helping Discover NZ keep up with the ever-changing tourism industry.
Scrapping the previous ‘Tour Masters’ brand in favour of Discover NZ in April this year was a move to simplify, remove any confusion with the company and indicate a new direction forward, says chief executive Helen Bissett.
‘We decided that Tour Masters was a name that probably didn’t mean a lot to people any more and was a bit out of date.
‘The Discover NZ brand is very strong, and redefines who we are and what we do.’
Bissett says the change in branding comes with a new vision for the company.
The beginning of June saw Discover NZ purchase GITaway Vacations, which organises tourism packages for one day deal websites such as GrabOne, Groupon and Treat Me.
‘Part of our innovation and new strategy is broadening our base – not just being purely an inbound operator,’ says Bissett.
‘The one day packages are especially popular during the winter months, which really helps our seasonality.’
Bissett says more innovations will be seen shortly, as well as a redefined focus on providing a career pathway for all employees.
‘It’s exciting for our team, it means inside our company, as we expand, there will be room to take our staff with us, and to grow their positions and skills.
‘We’re changing with the times, we feel like we’ve been charging ahead and leading the way with new thoughts on how to operate in this current environment – in a few years we will look like a completely different company.’

Auckland threatens Wellington as events captial

Friday, 24 July 2015 12:18

By Kathy Ombler

Auckland is starting to put pressure on Wellington’s ‘events capital’ reputation; the Wellington Sevens, for example, should have started re-inventing years ago, keynote speaker Peter Biggs told the Eventing the Future Conference in Wellington this week.  Events – and companies – are at their most vulnerable when things are going well, he said.

‘The brave people reinvent what’s going on when it’s most successful. The Sevens in Wellington should have been re-invented seven years ago when they were booming, because the audience was changing. People want new stuff. So you need brave people in the room. An event has to be changed or they are going to be disrupted. (Compare) the Wellington Sevens and Auckland Nines, for example.

‘It’s a different, competitive set now. Wellington was without peer as the arts and cultural centre. Guess what, Auckland got united; a united, shared ambition and they’re off and the game has changed on us here in Wellington.’

Melbourne is the same, he added. ‘They have done nothing new since the 1990s. Melbourne led the way in events, in art and culture, now Sydney has woken up.’