Come for the Attractions — Stay for the Secrets

Words by Irena Brooks
Pouakai Circuit – Rach Stewart Pouakai Circuit – Rach Stewart

Venture Taranaki’s summer tourism campaign aims to encourage locals to become tour guides and help visitors see the best of our region.

“It’s all about local people becoming regional advocates,” says Justine Gilliland, CEO of Venture Taranaki, “and showcasing everything we have to offer, from gardens, surf and walks, to highly sophisticated food, beverages and art.”

“We know how amazing this place is, so who better to tell that story than us? 

The campaign focusses on promoting our well-known – events and attractions like WOMAD, the TSB Festival of Lights, Mount Taranaki, our surf and gardens — as well as the many hidden gems that exist throughout our region. 

“A great example of this is one of the headlines we’ll be using ‘come for the festival, but stay for the encore,” cites Brylee Flutey of Venture Taranaki’s marketing team. “We want people to pair a high-profile event or experience with a more adventurous discovery, something they have to search out that will dazzle their taste-buds, minds and create a memorable, shareable experience.”

“Taranaki is known for the mountain, beaches and scenic landscapes, but we’re working to expand the perceptions around what we have to offer and how much there is to see, do, discover and experience while here, to showcase how good it really is.” 

“We want people to become regional tour guides and show their guests, friends and family how  uniqueTaranaki is, and that there’s something here for everyone. The summer campaign will help locals and visitors alike discover and share their own Taranaki stories.

The campaign will focus on digital and social media, whose visual nature supports the region’s stunning scenery as much as its unique built, dining and cultural attractions. 

“Taranaki is filled with spectacular photo opportunities, whether that’s a coastal sunset, a shot of the summit, a reflective selfie in the Len Lye Centre, or a view of cool café. Social media allows these images to reach a huge audience, and for that audience to engage and share their content in a genuine and authentic way,” Brylee says. 

“People are so passionate about the region – enough to shout it from the rooftops! The key with this campaign is that we’re harnessing and leveraging that passion.”

Venture Taranaki has developed a number of customised gifs people can utilise to enhance and regionally tag their Instagram and Facebook stories. 

“The gifs are animated to move in ways that are engaging and fun,” explains Brylee. “We’ll be encouraging residents to use those and tag in friends and family along withthe Taranaki like no other page so others can connect with our regional content and story.”

Selective Sharing

Of course some secrets will always remain secrets, and careful management is required to ensure attractions promotion and demand is managed in a sustainable way. 

“It’s important that the locations and experiences we are highlighting can handle the visitation. We’re being very mindful of not getting too many people heading in one direction.”

Over-use has become an increasing challenge for tourism in New Zealand with key destinations around the country bearing the brunt of a growing social media audience intent on capturing their own take on these iconic attractions. Locally, the reflection of Mount Taranaki in the Pouakai Tarns, and the rippling façade of the Len Lye Centre have joined the list of Instagrammable destinations. 

“The Pouakai Tarns shot has become particularly coveted and has the magic combination of requiring effort and favourable weather to get the perfect shot,” says Brylee. “We know people are seeing that shot and coming to the region just to replicate it.” 

While increased exposure and the corresponding increase in visitor numbers has had its upsides – which you’ll read shortly – there are also some negatives, such as the freedom campers clogging up car parks at popular spots like the Waiwhakaiho River mouth. The New Plymouth District Council has created by-laws to help control this situation, while nationally, Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand and others have teamed up to develop The Tiaki Promise.

Tiaki means to care for people and place.

“New Zealand is precious, and everyone who lives and travels here has a responsibility to look after it,” states the website tiakinewzealand.com. “The Tiaki Promise is a commitment to care for New Zealand, for now and for future generations.”

The three cornerstones are:

To care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace.

Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all.

Respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind.

“This sense of respect and awareness is particularly relevant to Taranaki,” says Justine. “It is something that we can and should all embrace, and when our friends and family come to visit we should act as champions of this initiative and educate them around caring for a stunning region.”

Venture Taranaki has also partnered with Air NZ to extend on their Summer campaign. 

“As a result of this partnership, we will be leveraging some of our key messages across their channels, including their social media,” Justine adds. “This is the first time we’ve partnered with the award-winning national carrier, and we’re looking forward to aligning with them to share our message and promote our vibrant region.”

“Our new ‘make a weekend of it campaign’ is all about our visitors extending their stay and experiencing all we have to offer.

A Growth Industry

Visitors to Taranaki spent $418 million in the year to the end of September. While international visitors are often seen as the face of the tourism industry, $327 million – 78 percent – of that spend came from domestic visitors. 

Of our international visitors, the Australian market generated $31 million, the UK market $15 million, and the US $11 million. Visitors from China spent $2 million – below Canada on $3 million.

“The visitor sector is an important component of our regional economy, both as a generator of revenue and as a catalyst for shifting perceptions of the region that could lead to inward investment or lifestyle attraction,” says Justine.

Between 2017 and 2018, visitor spending in the region jumped from $359 million to $399 million on the back of Lonely Planet judging Taranaki the world’s second-best regional destination in their 2017 global Best in Travel awards. This remains New Zealand’s highest ever placing in the annual awards.

Taranaki performs well against other regions of similar size, and our growth has consistently outpaced New Zealand’s, trending up since July 2015, and we have had only one month of negative growth since September 2015.

“Our challenges when it comes to growing our visitor sector, particularly the international numbers, are the distance to a gateway airport and comparative lack of trade-ready tourism product, though both could also be seen as an opportunity. We know that most foreign visitors will typically follow a central north-south route through New Zealand’s tourism hotspots, and we are working with other regions and Tourism New Zealand on strategies to encourage better regional dispersal.”

Sustainable growth relies on a number of factors, including authenticity, operator growth, product development, infrastructure and capacity, and environmental impact. 

“We are looking at all these aspects and encouraging operators to sign up to the Tourism Sustainability Commitment. We’re also monitoring global shifts and trends such as flight shaming and wellness tourism and looking at what that could mean for the region – both in terms of impacts and opportunities. 

“While Taranaki may occasionally see a crowded visitor experience at a small number of locations, the region’s councils have strategies in place to help manage these spots, and there remains opportunity for growth beyond the beaten track and across other visitor sectors, such as in the arts and food experiences.” 

On a personal note, Justine says this summer she’s looking forward to “the incredible events programme, enjoying more of our amazing local food and beverages, heading to the beach, and getting outdoors to explore more of the region. 

“Our children love the many parks and walks we have such easy access to here in Taranaki. The summer exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre also promises to be spectacular, with hundreds of artworks spanning the gallery’s collection. We should be very proud that we have New Zealand’s only dedicated, and globally-important, contemporary art gallery, which is celebrating 50 years in 2020.”

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