Hot Off The Press
Consumer NZ’s head of research, Jessica Wilson, says credit cards offering flight rewards most often require consumers to ‘spend big to earn big’.
Wilson’s comments follow a recent Consumer NZ study finding that customers can end up spending hundreds of dollars in fees for a credit card unless they are spending huge amounts each year.
The study revealed that for $25,000 spent over two years, eight out of 29 cards researched would cost holders more in annual fees than the flight rewards on offer.
According to the results, the best performing card at that spending level would not cover half of a $600 return flight from Auckland to Sydney.
The best performing card, American Express Air New Zealand credit card earned $250 in rewards.
Cards with the highest annual fees were the least rewarding, the Consumer NZ says.
‘High fees eroded the value of rewards earned and meant you’d have to spend more than $25,000 to get into positive points territory,’ according to the report.
An American Express Air New Zealand Platinum card with a $395 annual fee earns card holders just $333 over two years, leaving them $457 out of pocket.
This card does, however, offer a complimentary Air New Zealand return direct domestic flight each year.
Westpac Hotpoints World MasterCard, earns card holders $375 for spending $25,000 over two years, but after paying $780 in annual fees they are left $405 out of pocket. (Source: Stuff.co.nz)
A new ‘glamping’ accommodation option has opened in Rarotonga.
Ikurangi Eco Retreat has two arés (Polynesian style units), four luxury safari tents and one ariki tent (a honeymoon tent with an outdoor clawfoot tub).
Rack rates for the tent accommodation start at $220 per tent per night. Children under 11 are not catered for.
Husband and wife team Matt and Luana Scowcroft describe Ikurangi as the Cook Islands’ first purpose-built eco accommodation and glamping site. It is set in a tropical garden near Mount Ikurangi on the east side of Rarotonga.
It is five kilometres from the main township of Avarua and a short stroll from the ocean reef. The nearest provisions shop is five minutes walk away (or two minutes on one of the retreat’s complimentary bicycles).
A freshly made tropical breakfast is delivered to guests’ tents or arés each morning, featuring a selection of artisan breads, cereal and fresh fruits.
Ikurangi Eco Retreat has brought ‘glamping’ to the Cook Islands
New Zealanders should book now for their domestic summer holiday or risk missing out on their first choice of experience. That’s the advice of Tourism Industry Association chief executive, Chris Roberts, who spoke at a Service IQ networking breakfast yesterday about the current tourism sector boom.
‘We are seeing incredible growth. Estimated tourism spend is up by 21% in the last 12 months. That’s previously unheard of. Forward bookings with some operators are up 25% on last summer. The devaluation of the New Zealand dollar is likely to see even greater spending here. We’re getting additional air services; Qantas is the latest to announce new (inbound) flights and I know there are more announcements to come. There is domestic airline growth. Air New Zealand pulled out of some domestic routes and the smaller airlines have stepped up.
‘Quite frankly, if you want to go to your favourite place for your summer holiday book now or you’ll miss out.’
Roberts also addressed tourism workforce issues, citing from a TIA commissioned report that indicates an additional 36,000 full time equivalent jobs will be needed to meet the targeted industry growth, from the current $23.7 billion per year to $41 billion, by 2025.
He said potential actions to help achieve this included attracting mature and retired workers into the industry. Roberts also pondered the use of the term ‘career’, in promoting tourism to younger people as a job option. ‘We know most young people are going to have six or seven careers in their lifetime. Rather than talk about tourism as a career path, perhaps we need to talk about the ‘opportunities’ presented by working in tourism.’
Service IQ chief executive, Dean Minchington, told those at the breakfast that the organisation was very close to completing a review of all industry qualifications under the ITO’s umbrella. He also talked about the ‘road maps’ the organisation was developing, identifying the workforce needs in specific regions, starting with Christchurch and Queenstown and now moving north to Auckland. This would help to address the concerns raised by Roberts that most of the additional jobs needed by 2025 were predicted to be in these regions.
While most tourism workforce needs would be for low, entry-level jobs, Service IQ is also looking to improve business and management level capabilities, said Minchington. ‘That’s a challenge for us. We need collaboration with our industry consultants and training institutions to achieve this.’
A new ‘All Blacks Experience’ visitor attraction will open in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter in 2017.
Unveiling the All Blacks Experience in Auckland today, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler says the new attraction will have huge interest from both the domestic and international markets.
‘The All Blacks Experience is set up to have an enduring, long term appeal, and will particularly be targeting the ‘first and only time’ visitors to the country, and I definitely foresee the product landing itself in international brochures as well.
‘As the release date gets closer, inbound operators will likely be all over the product too.’
The All Blacks Experience has been developed as a joint venture with Discovery Partners, and will feature ‘immersive technology’ bringing attendees into a real rugby game environment, with skill tests, 3D animation, and a number of features yet to be revealed.
According to a survey conducted by Rail Europe throughout April and May 2015, trains are by far the preferred mode of transportation when it comes to travelling through Europe.
Of the 4,949 survey participants, 73% thought train travelling was the most comfortable and convenient way to see the continent, as it reaches a wider range of destinations than other modes of transportation, including car and coach.
According to the survey results, participants listed convenience, value for money, efficiency, environmental friendliness and the opportunity to interact with locals as the top five benefits of Europe train travel.
To see the full results of the survey, visit http://www.raileurope.co.nz/deals/article/the-best-way-to-visit-europe?var_mode=calcul
Thailand has given the green light to multiple entry six month visas for all, which is expected is to be a huge boost for tourism.
Tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha granted the move, which will be effective within 60 days after receiving Cabinet approval.
The visa will be available for citizens of all countries and will allow multiple entry during the six month validity.
It plans to charge THB5,000 for the visa, while the current one-month visa will still be offered at THB1,000.
Last month Thailand received 2.6 million arrivals, up by 37% compared to 2014.
The country has set a target of 28 million foreign visitors for this year, expected to generate THB2.2 trillion in spending.
The new visa strategy is part of Thailand’s three year tourism development plan, which plans to relax some travel conditions to boost inbound tourism and promote sustainable development.
Thailand recently signed a reciprocal agreement to waive entry visas with Myanmar.
Tourism Malaysia took the opportunity to talk to Air New Zealand about direct services between the two countries when a delegation visited New Zealand recently.
Dato’ Azizan Noordin, deputy director general Tourism Malaysia says he talked to NZ yesterday and the response was positive. He has also talked to Tourism New Zealand about further promoting this country to Malaysian travellers.
Noordin, on his first visit to New Zealand, points out that Malaysians make 16 million international trips a year so there must be more potential for New Zealand.
‘We have a close affiliation in terms of our people and our language. We are both members of the Commonwealth.
He says Malaysia attracted 67,000 New Zealanders last year and that research shows Kiwis are attracted by shopping, island resorts and beaches, diving, golf and food.
Tourism Malaysia hosted a buyer meet seller evening followed by dinner for about 100 last night.
The Everest trekking region has received a mixed report from experts ahead of the new tourism season in Nepal next month.
The report, commissioned by the Government of Nepal, confirms that there was ‘minimal damage’ to the majority of accommodation and trails in the Everest region, in Nepal’s northeast.
Some minor hazards were identified after assessment of the main trekking routes and select villages ahead of the monsoon season.
Recommendations in the report include rerouting a section of the Everest trail, as well as relocating buildings in nearby villages to reduce risks in the region to tourists and to locals. The report also recommends a follow up engineering assessment after the monsoon.
Intrepid Travel, one of the largest trekking operators in Nepal, worked with the government of Nepal to co-ordinate the logistics for the report and provide the local guides to make it happen.
‘As far as we’re concerned the report is all good news, because even where it’s identified issues it means that we now have the information needed to rebuild Nepal stronger than ever before, and ensure the safety of our staff, travellers, and the local communities we visit,’ says Darrell Wade, chief executive and founder of Intrepid Travel.
Other opportunities to improve long-term safety in the trekking regions identified in the report include improved signage of natural hazards, and providing engineering advice to accommodation owners rebuilding structures on the trail.
Summary of Everest assessment
Nine major bridges were assessed, with no signs of damage as a result of the earthquake.
Fifteen villages with 710 buildings were assessed, including both tourist accommodation and local residences, with 83% of all buildings given a green-tag by engineers at the time of the assessment. Most damaged buildings could be repaired and owners are making these repairs now using new construction methods that will improve safety in the future.
Many of the villages on the Everest trail do not appear to have been affected by the earthquake.
Overall, the assessment of the Everest region identified that damage in the lower valley (below Namche) is significantly greater than in the upper valley
The most significant recommendation in the report is to reroute a stretch of the trail around the villages of Tok Tok and Benkar to the opposite side of the river. Engineers suggest moving the trail to the true left of the river using the existing bridges at Phakding and the northern end of Benkar. The residents of the two villages would also need to be moved.
The report recommends closing the low trail between the villages of Namche and Khumjung, and using the higher level trail instead, as geological evidence suggests that rockfall is a frequent occurrence on the low trail between the two villages.
Avoid overnight stays in Shomore. While there was no new rockfall in Shomore, there are a number of large boulders in the village. Engineers believe it is relatively safe to continue to use the trail in this area for now, but the report recommends a more in-depth assessment needs to be made.
Last year was a stellar year for New Zealand’s hotels which collectively recorded the highest annual occupancy rate in five years, according to new Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) research.
The almost 140 TIA member hotels in New Zealand enjoyed 75.7% occupancy, up three points on 2013, and the country’s highest occupancy rate in five years. Auckland achieved the highest annual occupancy rate of 82.2%, followed by Wellington (74.6%) and Dunedin (73.6%).
The average daily rate (across all star grades) jumped to $144, up $5 on the previous year, the highest since 2011 when New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup, generating total revenue of $1.05 billion.
The Central Park region (Taupo, Tongariro, Napier and Gisborne) had the highest average room rate of $160, followed by Christchurch ($157) and Queenstown ($149).
Total room capacity was up 500, to 17,900, with most of the increase in Christchurch.
The strong performance is a result of improvements in the New Zealand economy and an increase in international visitor arrivals, according to TIA. New Zealand welcomed more than 2.8 million visitors in 2014, which was 5.1% more than in 2013.
‘Almost every region saw record results last year, with the exception of Christchurch where a significant recovery in the supply of available rooms due to hotel openings and re-openings has affected the occupancy statistics,’ says TIA chief executive, Chris Roberts says.
‘These positive trends have continued in 2015 and as a result, we are seeing reinvestment with a number of hotels undergoing refurbishment. And investors are responding to demand with more hotel developments around the country than we have seen for quite some time.’
With demand for hotel rooms expected to keep growing as the tourism industry progresses towards its Tourism 2025 goal of almost doubling total tourism revenue to $41 billion, there needs to be ongoing and significant investment into both existing and new hotels, Roberts says.
Hotels contributed $774 million to the economy through wages and salaries, food and beverage purchases, council rates and other expenditure.
TIA hotels employ 10,500 full-time equivalents, up from 9800 in 2013. They pay more than $345 million in wages and salaries, and almost $19 million in council rates.