SAN FRANCISCO -- The New Zealand Tourism Board launched an advertising campaign in the San Francisco Bay area promoting the country and commissionable packages offered by several tour operators which specialize in the destination.

It is the first time the board has operated an advertising campaign specific to one U.S. gateway, said Gregg Anderson, the board's regional manager for the U.S. and Canada.

The $400,000 northern California campaign is in addition to the board's $2 million national advertising campaign which runs in newspapers and magazines with the slogan "100% Pure New Zealand."

The focus of both the regional and national promotion is on the country's food and wine and active vacations, including walking, bicycling, golf and yachting.

Anderson said the San Francisco area was selected for the focused promotion because of the region's already high rate of travel to New Zealand. The country last year received 200,000 visitors from the U.S. and 25,000 to 30,000 of them were from the San Francisco Bay area. Anderson believes the region has not been fully tapped because of New Zealand's high repeat factor.

"Thirty percent of our visitors return within four years of their first trip," he said. "New Zealand has changed as a travel experience. We have become more like Europe in that people want to take an area and experience it in depth. One of my goals is to change the thinking so that it is not a once-in-a-lifetime trip and people think of it like they would a trip to London or Paris."

Anderson said with the popularity of last year's America's Cup yachting event in New Zealand among Californians and the U.S.-New Zealand exchange rate the most favorable it has ever been the time was ripe for the focused marketing.

The advertising promotes the "100% Pure" Web site, www.purenz.com, which lists packages and tours offered by tour operators and provides links to travel agents who have become Kiwi Specialists.

Anderson said the success of the Kiwi Specialist program has been impressive, with 581 travel agents in the U.S. and Canada signed up for the program in the seven months since it started. Another 400 agents have requested applications to participate.

The program replaced the board's New Zealand Preferred Agent Link program, which was limited to 250 agents based on geography.

Benefits and tools available under the new program include an individual membership that moves with the agent should they change jobs, a bi-monthly elecronic newsletter and access to the board through a dedicated e-mail address at [email protected].

Agents also receive quarterly product updates with material for regional tourism groups, tour operators, accommodation provides and attractions.

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