Hot Off The Press
They came from Dunedin, Christchurch, Richmond, Wellington, Australia and Auckland to attend World Journeys Great Train Masterclass, held at Hopetoun Alpha, Auckland last week. ‘We pulled out all the stops to have our top agents here for this engaging and educational evening on extraordinary train journeys,’ says marketing manager Caroline Clegg. Guest speakers from Belmond, Rocky Mountaineer and Indian operator, Perfect Travels were on hand to provide in-depth training to the 35 attendees.
World Journeys is focusing on rail travel this month, in an effort to turn agents heads with a range of luxury rail experiences where the train journey is actually destination in itself.
Marketing manager Caroline Clegg says this sort of rail travel is about more than just getting from A to Z. ‘These train journeys are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Iconic rail options such as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and the Blue Train offer luxury from a bygone era, with restored carriages, butlers, gourmet meals and wines. It really is all about what’s going on aboard the train, and the scenery passing by the windows is a beautiful bonus,’ says Clegg.
Other rail journeys, such as the Golden Eagle Danube Express, offer comprehensive off-train experiences, with excursions to fascinating cities, bazaars and vineyards on route that really fill out the experience.
Meantime, the luxury trains of India hark back to the days of the Raj, when both Indian and British Royalty regularly travelled on these trains.
World Journeys has added a category of Rail Journeys to its website, and is offering deals such as a free five-star hotel night with a 2016 Blue Train booking, an added-value Deluxe Delhi package with a Palace on Wheels Booking, and a Stay & Play deal with Rocky Mountaineer. Special guests visiting from Belmond, Rocky Mountaineer and the luxury trains of India are in New Zealand this week. Clegg says they have a range of sales tools for agents including flyers and posters.
‘March is the month to wake up to Rail,’ she says.
Home improvement retail giant Mitre 10 (NZ) Ltd ha appointed cievents to organise its bi-annual international conference taking place in Shanghai this April 2016. The event is one of New Zealand’s largest outbound international conferences of its kind and will see 370 delegates spend seven days in one of China. cievents was selected following a competitive tender process against other major players in the event management industry.
Duncan McGhie, Mitre 10 (NZ) Ltd general manager source to shelf said, ‘We found the cievents team to be highly professional and personal from the outset. They immediately impressed us with the creativity of their proposal and demonstrated their financial expertise in negotiating significant savings before we even committed to working with them.’
‘We’re thrilled to be working with Mitre 10 on what is no doubt going to be a phenomenal event,’ says Julie McWatt. ‘Our team has been working hard to bring all the elements together with the goal to inspire the Mitre 10 audience and drive them to achieve their business goals.’ cievents is part of Flight Centre Travel Group.
A new inflight biosecurity video has been released by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy to help international airlines explain New Zealand’s biosecurity requirements to arriving passengers. While containing humorous aspects, the video delivers a serious message about biosecurity and what passengers need to do once they arrive in New Zealand. The video uses an animated beagle called ‘Officer Goodboy’ to grab people’s attention. The video is part of MPI’s wider public awareness campaign to encourage arriving passengers to ‘declare or dispose’ of biosecurity risk goods before they cross the border.
Travel agents who upskill on Russia, the Baltics and other nearby countries will find there is good money to be hard in selling the destinations, according to Russia specialists who are in New Zealand this week.
Russian Travel Centre’s managing director Jayne Thomas and director of sales and marketing Michael Tonkin say New Zealanders are more adventurous than their trans-Tasman counterparts and continue to seek new experiences and destinations.
‘We often find that the agents tend to be more conservative than their clients,’ says Thomas. ‘Our message to agents is that if your clients want to go to Russia, they’ll go there. If they don’t do it through their agent they will do it another way.’ She says some agents have no idea how modern and dynamic Moscow is. ‘There is so much going on there – night life, theatre, music festivals, trendy bars and restaurants.’
Tonkin says agents need to remember that when they get a booking for Russia it’s not just a $500 stopover. ‘We’re talking a $6000 to $700 booking per couple and it is so easy t add-on something like Helsinki and the Baltic States. ‘And if you are looking at independent rail journeys trans Siberia you are looking at $10,000 plus.’
Russian Travel Centre joined with Kiwi GSA Innovative Travel in Auckland recently to present to agents and clients. The educational workshops were also held in Mt Manganui tonight, then Wellington and Christchurch.
Jayne Thomas says new itineraries include a 10 day – nine night Baltic Manor Houses small group tour. ‘We concentrate on seeing the countryside and it has to be a small group tour, because that is what these manor houses cater for.’
Also new for 2016 is Discover Belarus, an eight day – seven night privately escorted tour. ‘In the past it has been difficult to obtain a visa for Belarus, but a new embassy ahs opened in Canberra and we have talked to the ambassador – he is keen to promote travel to that part of the world.’ She says Belarus is an amazing destination with well preserved Stalinist architecture and impressive National Parks. ‘This is one for trail blazing clients – it’s for people who want something totally different.’
Fiji is open for business.
That is the message from the cyclone-hit country as it opens it arms this week to a 53-strong contingent of New Zealand travel agents taking part in one of five Tourism Fiji famils.
Tourism Fiji business development executive Cameron Taylor says Fijians want people to continue visiting. ‘They prefer that tourism keeps going. It all proves just how amazing their spirit is. It’s business as usual,’ Taylor says.
Category-five Cyclone Winston ripped through Fiji on 20 February, killing more than 44 people and destroying many homes. The northern coast of the main island Vitu Levu, particularly Rakiraki, was badly struck. Vanua Levu and Tavenui also took a battering.
Tourism Fiji cut only two trips in the wake of the disaster but continued with arrangements for agents to take part in famils in less affected areas – the Yasawas, Mamanuca Islands, Blue Lagoon Cruise, Coral Coast and Mamanuca Islands/Coral Coast combo.
Taylor says the famils are an important way of showing New Zealanders the resorts and islands are getting back on track. ‘Yes, certain parts are not fine, but we also felt the best thing to do was support Fiji, and be seen to be supporting them,’ he says. ‘It is important that tourism keeps going to help people so money keeps coming in and it’s dispersed to the villages.’
Attending the Mamanucas Islands/Coral Coast famil alongside 11 other agents, Tori Maxwell from helloworld Miramar admits she initially had mixed feeling about coming given the devastation the cyclone caused. ‘But on the other side of that, tourism is such a big part of the lives of people here and it is a good thing to be able to show others that this is still a great place, that you can have a wonderful time and that it’s safe,’ Maxwell says. ‘People should come. Helping people get back to work so they can send money to their families and villages is one of the best ways to give support.’
Dave Whitaker at World Travellers Mondo Motueka, also in the Mamanuca Islands, agrees, adding the famil is opening his eyes to what is available. ‘Until you see something, you can’t explain it. I could sell this to anyone.’
Island hopping with Tourism Fiji
Mamanuca Islands famil island hopped this week, leaving Malolo Leilei for its larger neighbour Malolo. The 12-strong Mamanuca Islands/Coral Coast famil group enjoyed a hosted lunch at Malolo Island Resort before arriving at Tropica Island Resort where it spent two nights.
An itinerary highlight was an island-hopping trip with South Sea Cruises aboard 87-year-old schooner Sea Spray.
The agents met the boat at Mana Island Resort, (which was closed following Cyclone Winston on February 20) and then sailed toward Modriki – the island made famous by Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway – where they snorkelled. As they sailed, the group saw a sea turtle and caught a glimpse of the next island group as they neared the gateway to the Yasawas.
Tina Gosney from helloworld Dunedin says the voyage gave her an insight into where the islands and resorts are located. ‘This will be invaluable when it comes to painting a picture for people in the future,’ Gosney says.
Tourism Fiji is hosting four other famils: the Yasawas, Mamanuca Islands, Blue Lagoon Cruise and Coral Coast. Two other trips were postponed in areas badly affected by the cyclone.
Blue Lagoon cruising
The four-night Blue Lagoon cruise finished with a visit to a local village school, manta ray spotting and learning about local conservation efforts.
Today the group moves onto the last part of their itinerary staying at Mantaray Island Resort before heading back to the mainland to overnight at First Landing Beach Resort & Villas. Their final night will be at at Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa in Denarau.
Tourism Fiji's regional director New Zealand Wayne Deed says, ‘These famils are more important than ever and an opportunity for agents to see first hand that the majority of the Fiji tourism product is operating. While the clean up continues, especially in the outer islands, most of the favourite Kiwi holiday resorts and hotels are open.’
Famil feedback has been positive with agents saying they wouldn't hesitate to book clients to holiday in Fiji. Agents are also reporting few current booking cancellations, with some people opting to change their dates or move to resorts and hotels that can accommodate them.
Kim Ormsby, House of Travel Takanini, says the Yasawa Islands are beautiful. " Fiji definitely has more to offer than just Denarau. I would definitely recommend a Blue Lagoon Cruise. It's a perfect option to introduce clients who have never cruised before to cruising, and to do this in the Yasawas is amazing. I know a number of clients that I will be able to book this for when I get home. It feels like you are the only person cruising through the islands - each one feels different.'
Commenting shortly after arriving in Fiji on the famil Elly Lang, Flight Centre Whakatane says, ‘We spent the most fantastic first day in Fiji. Denarau is just the same as the last time I visited. Cyclone Winston caused hardly any damage here. ‘The first afternoon spent cruising up the islands on Blue Lagoon was amazing and the water for swimming was just as warm and beautiful as you see in photos.'
The group heads back to New Zealand on Sunday.
Wayne Deed adds that the travel trade will have an opportunity to add to fundraising efforts for Fiji at the 'Funds for Fiji' fundraiser on Wednesday 23 March at the Pullman Hotel Auckland.
Brand USA is holding up its recent Discover America roadshow as the new global benchmark for its travel trade events. The organisation’s chief strategy and communications officer Anne Madison says the event, held in Christchurch and Auckland, was the best she had seen internationally. Accordingly, Brand USA will use the style and format of the roadshow on the global stage.
Brand USA account manager Wayne Mitcham says the genuine engagement between trade and exhibitors helped make the event a standout success. About 530 people attended the roadshow – up by about 180 people on last year and the highest attendance since the event began about 20 years ago. Chartered buses delivered people from Whangarei, Tauranga and Hamilton to the Auckland exhibition, which was attended by agents from as far away as Wellington and Dunedin. ‘This was a huge message of commitment from the New Zealand trade. It is really appreciated, but now we have to keep the momentum going,’ Mitcham says.
The number of US suppliers was also up. Overall, there were more than 80 individuals and products represented at the event, including new faces from Texas and Philadelphia. Mitcham says this reflects how positively America sees the Kiwi market. ‘Word is getting out. New Zealand does not have the highest tourism numbers, but it is a quality market. Kiwis spend the longest time there – on average 15 days – and spend on average US$4000 per person, while visiting.’ America remains New Zealand’s number one long-haul destination (there are more Kiwi visitors than Chinese). In fact, visitor numbers have grown from 110,000 in 2004 to 263,000 in 2014. Numbers will continue to escalate as long as prices remain competitive, Mitcham says.
Philadelphia – the new kid in town
Philadelphia is looking to leverage off New Zealand’s love affair with New York. The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau made its inaugural appearance at this week’s annual Visit America roadshow to gain a slice of the Asia-Pacific tourism pie. Attending the roadshow, senior international tourism sales manager Stefan Merkl (left) says the historic city is keen on pulling Kiwis away from New York to experience a few days in Philadelphia. ‘If we could get 25,000 overnight stays during the next year, that would be a good start,’ Merkl says, adding that Philadelphia was only an 80-minute train ride from New York. The city has tax-free shopping for clothes and shoes. It makes sense to shorten a trip to New York by a day or two to visit Philadelphia where the hotels are cheaper, and to free up some money to shop.’
The east coast city, named America’s first World Heritage City in November, is renowned for its history. As the country’s first capital, Philadelphia is home to significant historic sites such as the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall. Merkl says art is another huge asset, adding the Barnes Foundation houses more than 600 paintings by Cezanne, Defas, Picasso and Renoir.
In the 1980s, Philadelphia was economically rocked as manufacturing moved out, he adds. However, in recent years it has reshaped into a modern-day city and drawn young people looking for an affordable place to live, which has injected fresh energy. ‘There are 300,000 students in Philadelphia now, and the place has a young vibe complemented by 2500 bars and restaurants.’ Merkl says the city may have once been sandwiched between big tourism hitters New York and Washington DC, but it was now a destination in its own right.
Getting to the core of the Big Apple
NYC & Company wants to school Kiwi travel agents on The Big Apple. The company’s representatives are encouraging the New Zealand industry to get on board with its educational programme, The Travel Training Academy, to get the smarts on the city’s hotels, shopping, dining and culture. The programme offers agents all they need to become specialists on New York, says the company’s Australia and New Zealand trade account manager, Kristin Hellmrich (right). The five-section programme is open to novices and those who have considerable knowledge of the city.
‘New York can be overwhelming, and many agents stick to the same old activities and properties,’ says Hellmrich, who was attending the Visit America roadshow recently. ‘But there is an abundance of different attractions and new products, which trade really can’t keep up with. This will help them, and enhance their clients’ experiences.’ Those who complete the training receive a certificate and a regular newsletter outlining what’s new as well as a business card entitling the holder to discounts in the city.
There are currently 3032 Australian and NZ agents registered. nyctrainingacademy.com
New York’s next big thing
The wheels of commerce are set to turn in favour of one of The Big Apple’s latest developments – the New York Wheel on Staten Island. The tourist attraction, the American version of the London Eye, is due to open in 2017. The developers Meir Laufer, Richard Marin and Andrew Ratner say it will be one of the city’s most lucrative attractions. It will pull in pre-tax revenues of $128 million in 2017, they estimate. People are expected to pay $35 a head to ride the 192-metre high attraction.
Booking is just the ticket
Kiwi agents are scores ahead of their Australian peers when it comes to getting their Broadway-loving clients to New York Musicals.Broadway Inbound’s Kate Sorensen (pictured left) was at this week’s American Road show in Auckland, advising attendees to pre-book shows to avoid disappointment – and collect 10% commission on each ticket for their effort.
‘Every show is different, but most can be sold three to six months out. Many visitors who chance it, find they are unlucky getting tickets when they queue for them in Times Square,’ she says. New Zealanders are ‘pushing above their weight compared with Australians’ when it comes to pre-booking. ‘Australians tend to have a she’ll be right attitude,’ she says. Wicked and the Lion King remain the most popular show choices.
Las Vegas – more than a roulette wheel
High-end entertainment, fine dining, art and day trips – Las Vegas is holding a lot more tourism cards than gambling. That was the message from the four-strong Las Vegas delegation attending the Auckland leg of the American Roadshow this week. ‘It offers considerably more than gaming,’ says Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s New Zealand and Australian PR representative Natalie Schofield. ‘We are trying to break down that Sin City stereotype. You don’t have to stay in a casino. The brand has evolved and the destination has evolved,’ Schofield says.
Among the new directions, Las Vegas is presently positioning itself as the entertainment capital of the world, says international public relations manager Kala Peterson. On that score, the city presently has the help of some famous faces – Jennifer Lopez has just signed up for a residency, joining performers such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears.
Las Vegas has for 10 years been sharpening its skills in the kitchen, offering fine-dining options not only on The Strip but downtown area. Sixty new eateries have recently opened or undergone redevelopment, Schofield says. It this year marks the 10th anniversary of Vegas Uncork’d with big-name chefs such as Guy Savoy, Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa on the bill. The foodie event, being held from 28 April to 1 May, will be held downtown for the first time.
Also downtown, Life is Beautiful will take place from 23 to 25 September. The festival, which last year attracted 100,000 people, is a showcase of music, food and art.
Schofield says the city is also an ideal launching pad for destinations such as the Grand Canyon and Nevada wineries, while Peterson says there are many options available for adventure-tourism seeking Kiwis. Las Vegas presently has 42.3 million visitors each year, 19% of which are international guests. New Zealanders and Australians are placed fourth highest on it’s overseas traveller’s list – and it would like to take in more. ‘You could be whoever you want to be… I could be my parents. They don’t drink or gamble, but they would do a show five nights a week – and they have that there at their fingertips,’ says Peterson.
The New Zealand market is part of a successful start for P&O Cruises’ corporate events business, the company says. ‘We definitely have some bookings out of New Zealand and we’re getting enquiries from the market,’ says Peta Torkington, corporate groups sales manager for P&O, pictured left. P&O announced its corporate events focus at the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo last year and yesterday, at the 2016 version of the same event, reported strong uptake. ‘Bookings rose solidly throughout 2015 following the launch, says P&O director of sales, Ryan Taibel (left). ‘And once Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden joined our existing three – ship fleet in November we saw a further surge in interest.
He says while 60% of delegates on bored in 2015 and 2016 were there for meetings, another 40% were part of incentive groups. ‘It seems there is a real appetite for an incentive with a difference, so our seven night cruises from ports such as Singapore and Cairns and our shorter main event cruises, incorporating experiences like the Melbourne Cup and Australian Open, are generating strong interest among incentive planners,’ Taibel says.
Fiji’s first mobile clinic dedicated to screening children for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) opened this month, thanks to AccorHotels and charity Cure Kids.
AccorHotels has raised more than $2 million for Cure Kids-led child health initiatives in Fiji over 10 years.
Most of these funds have been raised by AccorHotels Fiji, Australia and New Zealand staff, who have competed in the bi-annual AccorHotels Race to Survive for Cure Kids Fiji.
In the first four days of the clinic opening at Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on 11 January, more than 400 children from Fijian communities were screened for RHD as part of an ongoing programme assessing the feasibility of a RHD screening system.
David Coombes is Flight Centre (NZ) Ltd’s new managing director.
Coombes, who has been with the company for 15 years, previously spent almost three years in New Zealand between 2011 and 2013 as general manager product. He returns to the business today ready to take the pilot’s seat and will succeed Chris Greive, who announced his departure late last year.
‘Coombsie’, as he is affectionately known, started his career with Flight Centre Travel Group more than 15 years ago as a travel consultant in Brisbane, Australia. He’s since risen through the ranks to his most recent position as senior vice president product in the United States.
Coombes has led multiple teams to global recognition at the FCTG Global Gathering, achieved record business results in NZ and the USA and was the recipient of the FCNZ Directors Award for 2013/2014.
Greive will officially finish at the end of February 2016 after almost two years as managing director. Greive has been with FCTG for more than 30 years, having previously led the New Zealand business from 1990 to 2004. Although Greive officially steps down as managing director he will continue an active involvement with the company in an advisory capacity.