Lisa Gardiner, international business events and premium manager for Tourism New Zealand // © 2018 Tourism New Zealand
Feature image (above): A view of New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park // © 2018 Creative Commons user russellstreet
Following the debut of its Explore Plus program, Tourism New Zealand is giving new incentives to its specialists. The first 50 travel agents to book an independent fam on or before Aug. 12 will receive a $500 trip credit. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines and Fiji Airways are now offering specialists a $500 return on airfare.
To qualify for the credit, travel agents must be a part of the Explore Plus program, and independent fams must be booked for travel anytime between Sept. 1 and Nov. 11, 2018.
Luxury tourism is on the rise in New Zealand, with 50 percent of its generated revenue in the premium market coming from the U.S.
This isn’t surprising news. By tapping into one of the tourism industry’s biggest growth markets — adventure travel — as well as promoting spectacular natural sights, the destination has managed to lure discerning travelers looking to combine wild explorations with indulgent experiences.
Lisa Gardiner, international business events and premium manager for Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), handles the development and implementation of its high-value visitor sectors. TravelAge West recently connected with her to learn more about the New Zealand’s luxury segment.
Tell us a little bit about TNZ’s latest insight report on luxury travel in New Zealand and, more specifically, the U.S. serving as the destination’s biggest market.
Five years ago, TNZ created a premium strategy to improve the awareness of New Zealand as a luxury destination and to ultimately develop the high-value sector. This report confirms we are building momentum in the right places and supports the strong results of our premium industry partners.
In the U.S., in particular, dedicated premium trade and public relations activity has fuelled awareness of luxury offerings while increased air connectivity has made New Zealand more accessible than ever.
How has New Zealand evolved into one of the top destinations for luxury travel?
New Zealand is a niche travel destination that has quietly been building its luxury offerings over the past two decades. Perceived as unknown and off-the-beaten-track, yet still secure and established, New Zealand unexpectedly offers transformative experiences in a playground with no real borders or barriers.
Recently improved airline connectivity, consistent openings of world-class and unique accommodation and a flourishing food and wine scene have all positively contributed to the year-over-year growth. New Zealand’s diverse landscapes as well as a blend of indigenous and modern cultures contribute to the variety of meaningful and immersive experiences sought by luxury travelers.
How do you think adventure travel and luxury travel are related?
In New Zealand, we believe adventure is self-defined. For some, it might mean climbing to the top of a mountain. For others, it may be a taking a jetboat ride or swimming with dolphins.
We take the same approach to luxury — the experience is defined by the visitor. Our luxury lodges and partners can create custom, highly personalized experiences that are as adventurous, relaxing or culturally enriching as you’d like.
Why is New Zealand a great setting for luxury stays and experiences?
New Zealand has created a unique tradition of luxury lodges set in outstanding locations that enable a variety of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Coupled with its low-population density, New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and microclimates greatly shape both the accommodation and the activities on offer.
Visitors can design immersive, personalized experiences to best suit their passions and interests, be it pure relaxation, alpine fun, adrenaline-fueled action, fly fishing or golf. At the lodges and resorts, nature meets luxury in effortless style that is inspired by its surroundings.
We have an expression in New Zealand: Arrive as a stranger and leave as whanau, which means family. In many luxury lodges, visitors have the opportunity to meet the owners — the authentic, understated, can-do kind of people who make a trip unforgettable.
Visitors to New Zealand encounter genuine warmth and friendliness of the locals, and this hospitality extends to our luxury lodges.
Which regions or areas of the country are most popular for adventurers?
Historically, Queenstown and the South Island have been viewed as the adventure capital. Surprising to some, New Zealand’s diverse landscape and dozens of microclimates actually enable a range of adventures year-round and across both islands.
You can dive in Northland, fly fish in Taupo, heli-hike along the West Coast, golf in Hawke’s Bay, swim with dolphins in Kaikoura or sea kayak in Nelson Tasman.
What are the top luxury adventure experiences available to your more discerning audience?
Part of the magic of New Zealand is the array of experiences you can have in one day, let alone one trip.
Imagine dining at a remote alpine lake suspended above Fiordland, followed by a scenic flight above the UNESCO-protected Fiordland National Park. Then, land on your own private luxury launch for cruising through Milford Sound.
Kayak beside seals and spot dolphins and rare famous birds that inhabit the area — before returning to your luxury lodge for a chef’s table dinner.
Alternately, spend one day flying to and landing on New Zealand’s permanently active volcano: White Island. Then, spend the next immersing yourself in Maori culture and learning how it influences many modern chefs, wellness coaches and artists. Enjoy a magnificent hangi, which means feast, using traditional Maori gathering techniques and cooking methods. Sit around an open fire under the stars, and hear stories and Maori legends that will never be forgotten.
Or, charter a launch for the day and explore Poor Knights Islands, named one of the top 10 dive sites in the world by explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau; it’s known for its water clarity and the abundance of sea life. Experience the amazing acoustics of the world’s largest sea cave, Riko Riko, a mammoth cavern flamboyantly painted from top to toe with lichen and moss.
Can you name a few top experiences for adventurers who don’t have a big budget?
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation protects 30 percent of the country’s land for conservation and recreation. There are hundreds of walking tracks and hikes that are free to access.
Are there any new properties and upcoming experiences this year worth keeping an eye on?
Just outside Kahurangi National Park, Stonefly Lodge Nelson’s new villa is set for completion in the summer of 2019. Along Palliser Bay, Wharekauhau Lodge is building three new cottages that will match their current ones, plus a new villa slated for this month.