Tourism New Zealand, the official destination marketing organisation for the country, launched its first global campaign following the reopening of its borders after the Covid-19 pandemic, calling on high-value international travellers to experience transformational tourism with the campaign ‘If You Seek’. The strategy may help to attract tourists that can offer more than the average backpacker.

GlobalData’s Tourism Demands and Flows Database shows that in 2019, New Zealand received 3.9 million international visitors. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this figure fell to just 996,350 international visitors in 2020 and barely any in 2021, at 191,360. Finally, after over two years of near-total closure to tourists, the nation opened to fully vaccinated arrivals from overseas on 1 May 2022. Even with the addition of its new global marketing campaign, New Zealand’s tourism industry still has a long journey ahead before recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.

This campaign could appeal to tourists looking for exclusivity

New Zealand’s government wants to move away from the mass tourism that put significant pressure on its pristine landscapes before the pandemic. If You Seek encourages travellers to learn and practice two of New Zealand’s values: manaakitanga, which is a deep expression of hospitality and understanding, and kaitiakitanga, which is a call to be a guardian and steward of the environment. Although this will create a feeling of exclusivity and tap into a specific vein of demand from high-value travellers, consumer sentiment is still somewhat precarious.

GlobalData’s Q2 2022 consumer survey question: ‘How concerned are you about the impact of Covid-19 pandemic in general’ saw almost two thirds of the global response (63%) as either ‘Extremely concerned’ or ‘Quite concerned’. With New Zealand’s restrictions on inbound tourism being relatively strict and longer in duration, compared to many other global destinations, general concern regarding the pandemic may continue to hamper demand with fears over Covid-related restrictions coming back in to play in New Zealand, forcing plans to be cancelled without much forewarning.

Specific tourist types are being targeted

There is intense competition as destinations compete to capture the imaginations of travellers. Because of the size and location of the country, New Zealand will have to work hard to encourage visitation post-Covid, with international visitor numbers taking years to build up, and New Zealanders now having the option of travelling overseas. To fast track tourism expenditure, tourists with higher levels of disposable income need to be targeted, and the If You Seek campaign aims to do this. Tourism New Zealand has worked to design a compelling campaign that will attract high-quality visitors. These are visitors who Tourism New Zealand thinks will explore their surroundings more deeply, and ultimately contribute to New Zealand’s tourism sector in ways beyond the solid economic benefits they will offer. They will hopefully be travellers who want to engage with local culture and will also interact with the environment in a respectful way.

Tourism companies and marketing organisations in New Zealand still face challenges due to the fact that other destinations gained a competitive advantage by opening up their borders earlier and removing most restrictions. The If You Seek campaign may act as a catalyst for tourism growth from the pandemic while helping New Zealand to regain its competitiveness. Rebranding as a destination for high value-tourists could help its tourism economy to become more robust as recovery gains momentum.