Domestic Tourism & Travel Bubbles with Auckland, NZ

How can international tourism destinations start the recovery? What concrete actions can be taken?

How can international tourism destinations start the recovery?  What concrete actions can be taken? We have connected with Steve Armitage, General Manager at Destination Auckland in New Zealand, to discuss how they managed to tackle the crisis developing a comprehensive recovery strategy.

How can international tourism destinations start the recovery?  What concrete actions can be taken? We have connected with Steve Armitage, General Manager at Destination Auckland in New Zealand, to discuss how they managed to tackle the crisis developing a comprehensive recovery strategy.

In this call we had the chance to connect with Steve Armitage, General Manager at Destination Auckland, NZ, with whom we discussed the current perspectives for tourism in New Zealand and the concrete actions that were put in place to start the recovery.

You can read all the key takeaways from the call below:

The city of Auckland gives us a glimpse into the future, as life in New Zealand is already back to normal almost as before, despite the country been dramatically impacted by the sudden collapse of international arrivals.

As of today, the DMO is in constant contact with governmental agencies about the opening of the so called "Travel Bubble" with Australia, which New Zealand sees almost an extension of the domestic travel market. The government forecasts the bubble to be fully operative already in September, with plans to extend it to the whole pacific before the end of the year. This would represent a huge step towards the full recovery of Auckland's tourism industry, which is strongly dependent on international arrivals, with some of the ground operators' depending on international tourism for the 95% of their revenue.

Auckland as an integrated DMO

Auckland NZ is not only the official tourism board of the city of Auckland, but an integrated economic development agency, able to stimulate economic growth through tourism with strategic development initiatives. This proved to be a great advantage in coordinating the recovery form the early stages of the crisis. In fact, starting from the very first days of the crisis, the DMO was able to provide support to many local businesses, coordinating the funds provided by governmental agencies.

A key part in the early stages of recovery was played by Tourism New Zealand, the National Tourism Organisation, who switched the focus on the promotion of domestic travel, and developed a platform to coordinate with local DMOs such as Auckland, making sure all the efforts in the support of businesses and promotion was aligned at a national level. Being the most popular destination in New Zealand, Auckland played a key role in leading the recovery through strong communication and support actions. As for the present days, Auckland is still focused on promoting the city to 'aucklanders', but  starting from July the focus will be switching towards the whole domestic market. A crucial role in this direction will be played by the event industry, that will soon be reopening as the virus is on the way to be completely eliminated from the country.

Shifting towards sustainability

For Auckland, developing the domestic market represents also an opportunity for the future. Domestically Auckland has been always viewed as an international destination, but this is changing thanks to the new communication strategy put in place, and the DMO's proposition is starting to become more understood by both local and national tourists.

The current situation represented a chance to Auckland to shift towards sustainability, taking the opportunity to address the impacts of international arrivals and over-tourism within the city. The DMO is now considering it's role much much wider - beyond tourism, across different sectors from supporting employment of tourism professionals elsewhere to securing events, conferences and community initiatives, switching towards a society-based development rather than unrestricted economic growth. Strong efforts were also put in place to bring the local identity and heritage back at the centre, with the Maori heritage playing an essential role in this sense.

Developing an industry recovery plan

To tackle the crisis in the most effective way, Auckland has developed an industry recovery plan. The plan was initiated by Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) – Auckland’s economic development agency – on behalf of Auckland’s destination industry. The plan has been overseen and endorsed by the Destination AKL 2025 Industry Leaders Group (ILG), which continues to meet regularly.

The plan is prioritising its funding and resources around four key themes:

  1. Driving investment into Auckland.
  2. Rebuilding the regional economy from the neighbourhood up
  3. Showcasing a vibrant and resilient Auckland
  4. Supporting innovation and productivity

The recovery plan Auckland has put in place is aligned with the overall 2020-2025 destination strategy, which was already developed before the virus hit the country. The key focus areas in the Destination AKL 2025 strategy have been revised and sharpened to focus on the immediate challenges faced by the destination. The plan has been built around 25 actions prioritised around the following key areas:

  1. Partnerships & Planning
  2. Products & Experiences
  3. Sustainability & Resilience

Among the 25 actions:

  • Lobby Government re border control policy
    Lobby Government re permissible Major Events and Business Events at each alert level to provide clarity for the industry
  • Provide resources and connections to businesses through the Regional Business Partner programme
  • Activate Auckland’s night-time economy in collaboration with the local business communities and the hospitality, arts/culture, and retail sectors.
  • Enable strategic public and private sector partnerships both within and beyond the Auckland visitor economy to ensure a whole of city approach to recovery

Such actions are directly aligned to the revised focus areas and have been framed up in three-time horizons, specifically within 1-3 months, within 3-6 months and within an 18-month period.

The plan has been developed building strong connections between local community, industry leaders and government agencies. To build the program, Auckland has gathered the industry leaders and all the key government agencies, such the government lead for tourism development, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Airport, and Air New Zealand, resulting in a group of 20 people working on the development of the plan during 4 weeks.

The call witnessed how an international destination such Auckland can successfully tackle the crisis, taking into consideration all the key stakeholders and integrating effectively government guidelines and funds, coordination among regional and national tourism organisations, and ultimately building a comprehensive recovery plan.

Has your destination developed a recovery plan that you would like to share with us?

Key Takeaways

Published on:
May 2020
About the contributor