New Zealand tourism needs to get tech savvy


Philip Wolf, chief executive of PhoCusWright and a specialist in travel distribution strategy and technology said New Zealand could be attracting half a million more visitors a year by better using interactive technology like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Philip Wolf will speak to 200 of New Zealand’s tourism leaders at a symposium in Wellington today. The event is the culmination of a series of roadshows held around the country by the Tourism Industry Association to try to come up with ideas to lead New Zealand’s tourism industry – and one of the country’s top export earners – out of the downturn.

Visitor numbers have fallen by 3 percent in the last year, dropping to 2.41 million people in the year to August 31, and this summer is expected to be tough.

Wolf says New Zealand has a great brand, and Kiwi businesses are doing well when it comes to getting information online.

But he says many businesses think it is too hard to use interactive online technology to market to consumers.

“If you run a hotel, running a call center or putting out a brochure seem normal but going online is less readily acceptable. But what it takes to be a good marketer today is changing rapidly.”

He says sending out an email to prospective consumers is not enough.

“Businesses need to take advantage of the 20 different ways they can now get in touch with people and tailor the information to suit that technology whether it is email, RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter, or Flicker,” Mr. Wolf continued.

And he is dismissive of anyone who says they don’t have the time or resources to use online tools for marketing, saying, “What if someone in 1999 said ‘I don’t have time for a website?'”

Wolf, whose business PhoCusWright has been monitoring online marketing and booking trends since 1994, says last year more than 50 percent of all travel was booked online in America.

“That took 13 years to revolutionize, and for the first six or seven years of that, people fought it,” he stated.

He also sees potential for the tourism industry in marketing through mobile phones, saying, “Most travelers have these devices, and it’s a whole new way to communicate.”

In America GPS is proving popular in cellphone technology, and some companies are marketing to people who are in a specific holiday destination and looking for deals. He says those who ignore new technology are in danger of cutting off potential growth.

“It’s not OK to sit around and say ‘technology is passing me by,'” he concluded.