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Source: New Zealand Government

New training and tools for digital commerce will give small businesses, especially in the tourism sector, the support they need to adapt and innovate in a COVID world.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash have announced details of how $20 million digital capability funding set aside earlier this year will be allocated.

The $20 million package includes:

  • $10 million specifically for SMEs, announced in Budget 2020.
  • $10 million announced in August as part of the Tourism Recovery Package: $5 million to boost digital capability in the tourism sector through existing digital enablement programmes, and $5 million for Qualmark to help operators develop strategies and skills.

“Recent Qualmark analysis of 700 tourism businesses found more than half needed support with digital capability. This investment in digital tools and training will help tourism businesses develop digital strategies, increase their visibility and appeal, and tap into new markets,” Kelvin Davis said.

“In the past, many smaller tourism businesses haven’t had to invest in strong digital marketing to find customers, because of the volume of international visitors and the role of travel agents and tour operators to bring people to their door.

“Tourism businesses are now pivoting towards the intrepid domestic traveller who likes to shop around online and book their own holiday, so operators now find their websites, booking systems and social media platforms need to be redeveloped or outsourced to a specialist provider as they feel they lack the capability and resources to take on the job themselves.

“This funding will make a real difference and builds on the support we’re delivering through the Tourism Transitions Programme, which has already provided business support and advice to over 1,500 tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19,” Kelvin Davis said.

Stuart Nash said the tourism sector is not alone in finding its activity is held back by limited awareness or use of digital tools and processes.

“Recent research by McKinsey suggested that over the course of eight weeks, COVID had caused the equivalent of five years’ worth of advances in digital transformation for both customers and businesses,” Stuart Nash said.

“Big businesses like supermarkets, banks, professional and corporate service providers and manufacturers have made the transformation, but small and medium enterprises are at risk of lagging behind. The wider use of digital commerce by SMEs will help them adapt and innovate in order to thrive in the COVID economy.

“The package will help small businesses and tourism operators transition in the COVID-19 world by lifting digital capability.

“The private sector has great leadership and vision in this space, and Government will support this with initiatives to take New Zealand small businesses forward on their digital journey.”

“This package will help deliver on our vision of New Zealand’s small businesses being the most digitally engaged in the world,” Stuart Nash said.

Key initiatives within the package include:

  • A ‘Spotlight Series’ where small business owners, including tourism businesses, who have transformed their business by becoming digital can share their experiences.
  • Digital skills training and support focused on enabling SMEs, including tourism SMEs, to benefit from digitising their business.
  • Working with the private sector to put together the most relevant digital tools, technologies, products and services to support small businesses with becoming digital, including offerings tailored for the tourism sector.
  • Industry specialists appointed by Qualmark to provide a series of workshops and one-on-one advice. Key areas are strategic digital marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), organic growth, website performance and online booking system audits, online advertising and paid media, social media content and creation, conversion optimisation, lead generation and measuring success.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is working with the Ministers’ Small Business Advisors and Digital Industry Leaders to ensure the design of these initiatives is driven by business, and are useful, accessible and build digital confidence for small businesses.

Tourism operators can find out more about the Qualmark support by visiting the Qualmark website.

More details will be available on the website.