Chuffed Gifts - Regenerating Domestic Tourism through gift-giving

Chuffed Gifts is an example of how tourism businesses can untapped the potential of the domestic market by applying innovation, and entrepreneurship.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, New Zealand was one of the countries applying some of the world's strictest travel restrictions. Aware of the threat represented by the pandemic, the government has decided to close all borders to non-essential travel. The decision was a true shock for the tourism industry, which in New Zealand is extremely dependent on international arrivals.

Photo source: chuffedgifts.co.nz

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, New Zealand was one of the countries applying some of the world's strictest travel restrictions. Aware of the threat represented by the pandemic, the government has decided to close all borders to non-essential travel. The decision was a true shock for the tourism industry, which in New Zealand is extremely dependent on international arrivals.

Local tourism businesses faced the unprecedented challenge of having to rely entirely on the domestic market. It was in this context that James Fitzgerald, co-founder of a local tour operator decided to found Chuffed Gifts, a kiwi startup resolutely committed to helping local tourism businesses by connecting them with domestic tourists.

To achieve this, Chuffed Gifts has put into place an innovative model which is able to boost domestic tourism and business resilience through the act of gift-giving: through Chuffed Gifts, anyone can help local tour operators operate by gifting memorable local experiences.

Chuffed Gifts is a great example of how tourism businesses can leverage the untapped potential of the domestic market by applying innovation, entrepreneurship and partner collaboration.

A lockdown-born idea

During the first national lockdown back in April 2020, James Fitzgerald, co-founder of Rotorua Canopy Tours, an award-winning tour operator specialised in outdoor experiences, was living the same situation many other tourism businesses were experiencing: massive cancellation of bookings and overnight drying up of business.

As a tour operator focusing its offer mostly on international tourists, the challenge was now to be able to operate relying only on the domestic market. Despite New Zealanders being natural-born outdoor enthusiasts, James soon understood that having a great offer was not enough to keep operations running.

That's when he came up with an innovative idea that could help not only his business but the whole community of local tour operators within New Zealand's North Island: creating an initiative that could help local operators to sell to kiwis leveraging on the power of gift-giving.

We're on a mission to help tourism recover and change gift-giving in New Zealand - chuffedgifts.co.nz

Joining forces with Alex and Melissa, two talented but covid-displaced tourism marketing specialists, James came up with the idea of the 'Chuffed Tube' a personalised gift box containing locally crafted experiences, hand-picked from the best local operators. The idea was that by purchasing the Chuffed Tube kiwis could be inspired with a new way of gifting while supporting local tour operators.

The response to the initiative was enthusiastic: during six months of work, Chuffed Gifts has created a network of more than 60 experience providers, which are now selling to the local market through the company's website.

Photo source: chuffedgifts.co.nz

The idea explained

The idea of Chuffed Gifts, is at the same time innovative and simple: using gift-giving to support the activity of local tour operators. In brief, Chuffed Gifts allows gifting anyone an experience by shipping a 'gift tube', a tube-shaped gift box containing a range of redeemable experiences to choose from.

This how the process works in a few steps:

  1. On Chuffed Gifts website, customers can select the experience package they want to gift according to category ('discover', 'explore', 'inspire', etc.). Every package contains up to 22 experiences the gift recipient can choose from.
  2. After purchase, the package is shipped to the customer or directly to the gift recipient in the form of a 'gift tube' containing a booklet with the available experiences listed and a hand-written thank you message.
  3. The gift recipient chooses the desired experience and fills a form on the website. Once this is done a voucher to redeem the experience is automatically sent to the recipient via email.

Photo source: chuffedgifts.co.nz

Packaging the experience

By adopting a simple 3-step system, Chuffed Gifts makes the gift-giving experience user friendly and efficient. But efficiency is not the only factor contributing to the success of the initiative.

To make the offer more appealing, the business has cleverly leveraged on the packaging of the 'gift' itself: with the use of the gift tube and experience booklet, the company was able to give a physical packaging to something experiential. With its unique physical appearance, the gift is sure to make an impact on any recipient.

From the consumer side, the gift tube also helps to solve the traditional 'gift-giving dilemma': by choosing a package according to a 'category' the customer purchasing the gift leaves the final recipient the freedom to choose which experience suits him best.

Photo source: chuffedgifts.co.nz

The way the service is packaged makes the little tube a perfect gift for any special occasion. For example, it can work very well as a corporate gift: with many group experiences available (e.g rafting, adventure parks, etc.) the company is also tapping into the corporate gifts and team building market.

The startup is also focusing a relevant part of its marketing efforts on the festive period of Christmas, a great occasion to leverage the values of gifting something meaningful and helping out each other, core values part of the gifting idea proposed by Chuffed Gifts.

A business on a mission

Chuffed Gifts is not only the case of a business adopting an effective marketing strategy and strong business partnerships to reach its goals, but it is also an example of how the mission behind the business can be fundamental to develop a strong product.

In this case, the mission of the startup is clear: helping the local tourism industry to recover and change the concept of gift-giving in New Zealand. It is a strongly purpose-driven mission, and the product reflects perfectly this proposition.

Photo source: chuffedgifts.co.nz

Purpose as a driver of business

The way Chuffed Gifts wants to help the industry recover goes through quality personal interactions as opposed to mass tourism and anonymous experiences. In fact, the experiences proposed by chuffed gifts facilitate two-way connections: on one side they help local experience providers keep their business grow, and on the other side they enrich visitors with meaningful experiences that will remember for their whole life.

Despite being no charity business, Chuffed Gifts' mission resembles the ones developed by social enterprises, where the purpose is always at the core of any initiative, and business becomes just an instrument to support it. Apparently, this might seem a counterproductive approach for a business who wants to scale revenue, but the successful model developed by Chuffed Gifts proves this proposition wrong.

By supporting local tour operator and family-run businesses through the recovery, the startup is not only creating value for the whole local economy, activating a chain of spending within the region, but is also scaling its own revenue.

Photo source: chuffedgifts.co.nz

Adding experiential and social value to gift-giving

As mentioned, the concept developed by Chuffed Gifts, wants to redefine gift-giving by adding meaning to the experience. Here, the value of life-changing experiences, as opposed to thoughtless gift cards and material goods plays a key role in adding an 'experiential' value to the gift, a value that is perceived by the customer as soon as the Chuffed Tube is opened.

Gift-giving should be inspirational and unforgettable both for the gift giver and receiver... and that’s our mission. - chuffedgifts.co.nz

According to the company's philosophy, experiential gifts have the power to become part of the person who experiences it, as opposed to material gifts. Experiential gifts create memories able to enrich our lives with meaning. The activities included in every gift are selected for their ability to bring experiential value rather than their pure features.

On top of the experiential value, the social value of the gift represents another fundamental feature added by the company to make the product unique and appealing to the customer.

For Chuffed Gifts, the act of gifting is more beautiful and complete if it has a social purpose: every customer purchasing a Chuffed Tube as well as any gift recipient is in fact made aware of the contribution they are giving to regenerate tourism. The support to local operators and family-run businesses through every gift adds an incredible extra value to the product, which becomes not only experiential but ethical.

Photo Source: canopytours.co.nz

A concrete help to local businesses

The efforts made by the startup to help businesses paid off as many of the partners managed to recover from the initial shock of the lockdown. Through the new initiative and platform, most of Chuffed Gifts' partners have managed to considerably compensate their revenue loss by selling to domestic tourists. Leveraging on the untapped potential of the domestic market, the experiences contained in the Chuffed Tube made many Kiwis rediscover what makes New Zealand great for tourists.

Over the summer, many experience partners were overwhelmed by the positive response of Kiwis to the initiative. For example, Rotorua Canopy Tours, James Fitzgerald's parent company, saw a big jump in reservations throughout the summer, thanks to the redeemable Chuffed Gifts' vouchers. It was a clear sign of how kiwis were starting to rediscover what New Zealand had to offer.

On an interview released on the New Zealand Herald on 24 November 2020, the company's customer experience manager Eloise Roxburgh has expressed this shift in the mindset of kiwis, which were now considering local experiences as special occasions to travel.

We found that a lot more people are using special occasions and those emotive reasons for travel, compared to what we have seen in the past. - Eloise Roxburgh, Rotorua Canopy Tours

Similarly, the general manager Paul Button expressed his surprise in realising how many kiwis were taking overseas holidays before the pandemic struck, as he was impressed by the number of domestic tourists coming over the summer. "New Zealand forgot how good New Zealand was" he told to the New Zealand Herald.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
June 2020
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