TRENZ Interview: New Zealand PM John Key

urray caught up with New Zealand’s prime minister John Key to talk about the future of tourism to the country.

John Key expressed delight at the recent figures from the UK market which show growth after a few years of decline.

The figures show an increase of 2.8% in the year ending April 2014 putting arrival figures at 194,288.

He believes that the historic connections between the two countries is still important and gives Brits plenty of reasons to visit.

He added: “When we talk about British visitors often we are talking about weeks or even months spent here.

“We were pleased to see changes in departure taxes from the UK in the budget having been lobbying David Cameron and George Osborne and although it’s not completely the adjustment we would like, it was something.”

British tourist stay for an average of 29.8 days in New Zealand and spend, om average NZ$3,500 per person ground only.

This type of guest fits in with the strong focus on encouraging luxury travellers to the country which is one of the aims of the extra NZ$158m the government put into tourism last year to create a NZ$500m pot.

Key was keen to talk about films, particularly the Hobbit franchise.

He said: “We’ve been promoting films being made here with generous incentive grant scheme and the Hobbit movies one of the things to come out of that.

“Both the movies out so far have grossed about a billion dollars which give you an idea of how far reaching they are and we have seen a significant number of travellers from US and European markets in particular saying part of the reason they were coming was because they have seen the movies.”

The tourist board intend on continuing its ‘fantasy is realirty’ messaging for a while longer to take advantage of the third film in the trilogy due out later this year.

The International Visitor Survey shows that 12 per cent of all international visitors surveyed in October to December 2013, said The Hobbit was a factor in stimulating their interest in New Zealand as a destination. That figure rises to 14 per cent when just holiday arrivals are considered.

And 13 per cent of international visitors over January to September 2013 took in a Hobbit experience while in the country.

The next big films to be made in New Zealand will be Avatar 2,3 and 4.

Visitor arrivals are up from many markets with China at 30%, the US at 13.4% and 10% from Germany making it the fifth biggest source market.

Key put this down to improved marketing and digital capability and an economic recovery in important source markets. He also believe investment has been important.

He explained: “For example we launched our cycling trails plan in 2009 and so far 16 of 23 routes are completed and opened. Another four ready shortly.

In total this will give us 2700km of great rides and in January alone just under 100,000 people cycled on them.

“We will continue to invest and in fact we have just announced six new project as part of the NZ$32M Tourism Growth Partnership. In this round NZ$3.84m has been allocated but that has been matched by NZ$23m from the sector.”

Key was also keen to point out that although the target for increasing tourist numbers is high it isn’t about numbers for him.

He added: “The quality of the money is important, this isn’t a volume game we want people to stay longer and spend more.

“Tourism does create national good bringing in about NZ$9bn and employing around 200,000 people across the country.

“We need to continue to improve product and infrastructure and conservation has become more entwined with tourism. I would rather people come and have a great experience than get lots of people through the door. Our best sales people are those who have