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Source: New Zealand Government

It is my pleasure to be here at TRENZ 2022.

This is an event that continues to facilitate connection, collaboration and engagement between our businesses and key overseas markets. The conversations that happen here will play a crucial role in shaping New Zealand’s tourism recovery.

That’s why TRENZ remains such an important event in the tourism calendar and online. It’s also why I recently announced funding of $1.5m to ensure that TRENZ 2023 will be a world-class event, bringing buyers from all over the world to Aotearoa New Zealand, while the online platform TRENZ Connect will connect operators with travel and tourism buyers from around the world.

I want to thank Tourism Industry Aotearoa for putting on this fantastic event on behalf of the Tourism Industry New Zealand Trust as we reopen to our visitor markets around the world.

This time last year, our focus was on supporting our communities to get through the challenges ahead.

The Government’s Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Reset Plan supported the communities that were the most dependant on international visitors.

It aimed to assist the survival of those communities and promote the diversification of their economies.

It gave those communities a fighting chance and the means to seize opportunities for growth in their region.

At the time, it was a very uncertain environment. We didn’t know what reconnecting with the world would look like or when it would happen.

Now, one year on, I stand here today with the air borders open to most of our key markets, with cruise travellers and the rest of the world to follow shortly.  

This is another step forward for New Zealand’s tourism recovery, and will allow us to fully reconnect to the world of international visitors in time for our traditional peak visitor season.

The Prime Minister’s trade missions to Asia, the United States, Australia and Europe this year will be a key part of re-igniting our international tourism.

As we speak she is in the U.S… leading a tourism and trade delegation, following her successful tourism and trade mission to Japan and Singapore.

Jacinda Ardern has made it a priority to elevate the profile of this country in the minds of potential visitors as part of our reconnecting strategy.

With travellers planning their visits months in advance of the New Zealand summer, now is the right time to be visible in the US market letting Americans know we are open for business and travel.

However, the world has changed drastically in the last two years.

What worked before the pandemic is no longer a guaranteed recipe for success. It will take time before the number of visitors we saw in 2019 are back on our shores.

But with uncertainty comes opportunity. The opportunity to shape the nature of our industry.

The opportunity to live up to our potential as Brand New Zealand. And to rebuild our industry with sustainability, regeneration and innovation at its core.

Now more than ever, we need to ensure tourism leads the way.

My priorities for the tourism sector have remained the same throughout the past two years.

A transition to high-value tourism has been one of my core messages.

But I want to be clear. When I talk about high value, I mean those that give more than they take.

Across the social, economic, cultural and environmental domains, we need visitors who give back to our communities and who embody our unique values.  

We want freedom campers that are responsible with their waste and share the values of our local communities.

We want families to come on holiday and show kaitiakitanga, which represents care and respect for the land. The kind of respect for the land that kiwi families strive to pass on to their kids.

We want people who go off the beaten track to seek out new experiences and who engage with Māori culture and heritage.

Most of all, we want visitors to get on the plane home knowing that the lifelong memories they just created contributed to our country and our communities. 

I think everyone here today wants an industry where this vision is realised. And I know many of us recognise there are challenges that remain ahead.

The Government has provided more support for the tourism industry in the last two years than at any other point in our history.

This unprecedented level of investment speaks to tourism’s position as a core sector in the economy, and one that contributes to New Zealand’s national identity.

We have made big gains that improve the value and sustainability of tourism, with initiatives like destination management and improvements to digital capability.

However, with our borders open again, we are shifting to a new phase of managing this pandemic. The level of support the Government has rolled out to date cannot continue.

The simple fact is, the Government must ensure that it does not outspend its means. In a post-COVID world, our recovery must be led by business.

Businesses need to rebuild and reconnect with their customers in market and give confidence to visitors to make the journey to New Zealand.

Many of you will be aware of the scale of this challenge, given the current disruption the world is experiencing.

You will be aware that households around the world are facing increased inflation, supply chain disruption and cost of living pressures.

Consumers in target markets are also becoming more climate conscious than ever before. New Zealand’s distance to market means that we are becoming a more challenging destination to sell.

Our own commitment to climate action also raises questions about how we reconcile our exports, including tourism, with the climate impact of getting goods and people to market. 

These issues are challenging for a tourism industry that is looking to get back on its feet after a once in a generation event.

Tourism is an industry particularly vulnerable to a global reduction in consumer spending.

But I also know that when we are faced with new and unprecedented conditions, the tourism sector is resilient and the businesses represented at TRENZ today have survived a volatile two years of worldwide uncertainty.

People have been dreaming about visiting New Zealand for two years. We need to make sure we deliver on our global brand proposition, and we exceed their expectations.

We can achieve this by playing to our strengths. New Zealanders are famous for our innovation, creativity, and determination.

We push the boundaries in everything that we do. New Zealand tourism is no exception. It’s now more important than ever to ensure that the industry delivers on our global Brand Promise. 

We must use the uniquely challenging circumstances we now find ourselves in, to spur the development of new ideas, new ways of doing business and to reconnect with our markets. 

We must find ways of maximising the many positive outcomes of tourism in New Zealand, while increasing the efficiency and resilience of our businesses, improving working conditions, and creating opportunity for regeneration in the environment that supports our industry.  

Many of you will be thinking about the different ways in which you already strive to achieve these things for your staff, your customers and your community.

I applaud you all for the hard work you have done to make it this far. But there is still more to be done.

New Zealand has the opportunity and the capability to become the most innovative and future focussed tourism destination in the world.

Despite the last two years and the challenges we still face, I firmly believe tourism can be at the forefront of the regenerative, low carbon, high wage economy that New Zealand is striving to create.

I know it’s easy to talk about innovation, and entirely different to follow through. That’s why I have announced the $54 million Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery.

Innovation is critical to tourism’s future success.

The Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery will bridge the short-term gap until the Industry Transformation Plan outcomes begin to bed in.

The programme is being designed to develop real, transformational, and practical solutions that can be applied across the tourism system to help create a sustainable, innovative and low carbon model. 

It will fund initiatives that seek to transform the tourism sector by addressing tourism’s climate impacts, resilience and sustainability, or by providing technological solutions to lift productivity and capability.

It will also be based on a sustainable co-investment model to allow Government and industry to share the risk associated with the kind of transformational innovation that the industry needs to adopt if it is to be successful in a post-COVID context.

New Zealand will reclaim its position as the world leading tourism destination, both in terms of the experiences we provide, and in the way we conduct business.

Currently we are still early in the design of the Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery, and I want to take the time to make sure the design is robust and to engage with key experts. 

We will share more detail on the Programme later this year.

I’m deeply privileged to work beside you all. You know New Zealand.

The experiences you sell and the stories you share to our visitors about the land and the people will drive the tourism sector’s recovery for New Zealand.

It is this wisdom, knowledge and depth of experience that visitors truly remember.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we focus on tourism’s ability to inspire and innovate. This is what will carry us through the challenges we are now facing.

Together, we will continue to lay the groundwork to affect real, systemic change.

For our communities, our tamariki and New Zealand’s future generations.

Thank you, ngā mihi nui.