Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Benje Patterson*, a senior economist at Infometrics. His Top 10 focuses on tourism.
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1. Embracing digital hitchhiking
Bad driving by tourists has been garnering a lot of media attention of late.
Although there have been some clear cases of dangerous driving, I am a little disturbed by some of the xenophobic undercurrents I see coming out in some locals’ key snatching behaviour.
If we aren’t comfortable having tourists driving around on our roads, then why not embrace the modern reincarnation of hitchhiking and offer up seats in our cars via ride sharing apps?
While some of the sense of adventure is lost if you organise lifts in advance, this was still one of the most momentous trips I've ever taken. With two or three hitchers per car, it is more social and infinitely safer than the traditional way. I'm sure that Jack Kerouac would have approved of – and used – Couchsurfing and the hitching sites, had he been around today. The age of e-thumb has definitely arrived.
2. Dismantling the case for Wellington Airport’s runway extension
I am aghast at the idea of councils across the Wellington Region offering $150m of ratepayers’ money to fund Wellington Airport’s runway extension, particularly after having grown up in Invercargill where Tim Shadbolt tricked us into believing our airport could become an international hub.
I don’t buy the claim that airlines are lining up in anticipation of carrying hordes of tourists on long-haul flights to our windy capital city.
BARNZ (the body representing airlines in New Zealand) seems to agree and commissioned NZIER to critique a prior economic evaluation done by EY – this quote neatly shows the shonkiness of some of the assumptions underpinning the case for an airport extension:
"The report assumes that in 2020 everyone that is travelling between Wellington and an overseas hub will sit and patiently wait for up to 48 hours to catch the one direct non-stop flight out of town. They would apparently do this in order to avoid the extra travel time via Auckland, Christchurch, or an Australian hub."
3. There are other ways to boost air connectivity
Extending runways so that long-haul flights can land is an expensive way of boosting air connectivity. Much cheaper methods of boosting connections are strategic alliances and code sharing agreements between airlines that allow for more efficient connections between feeder short-haul flights and long-haul flights to farther flung destinations.
Air New Zealand has jumped on this bandwagon and stitched up deals with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, and Etihad, and the Government is also doing its bit by ensuring that policy settings are supportive of code sharing.
Cabinet has approved new air services agreements with Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt, Greece, Oman, Serbia and the Seychelles that will give greater options for New Zealanders travelling to those countries.
It has also confirmed arrangements reached with the Czech Republic and Curaçao to provide opportunities for airlines to offer code-share services, where two or more airlines share the same flight.
“The new arrangements mean that airlines from these countries will have the opportunity to offer services to New Zealand if they see commercial opportunities – unhindered by the regulatory barriers that characterise much of international aviation.
“Similarly, New Zealand airlines now have the opportunity to offer services in these markets”, Mr Bridges says.
4. $65,000 spent on Hobbit costumes
I wrote an article on regional tourism this week that identified visits to Hobbiton as a key factor underpinning a tourism boom in Matamata-Piako at present. This boom is no surprise when one considers how much some crazy Tolkien groupies are prepared to spend on Hobbit-themed outfits!
It's a scene that turned many heads as Tolkien fans from all over the world flocked to New Zealand to celebrate the third and final Hobbit movie.
About 200 attendees dressed as dwarves, elves and hobbits and wizards - all inspired by Lord of the Rings.
Among them were five dedicated Australian fans, from Melbourne, who spent a combined total of $65,000 on their elaborate costumes.
5. Potty training for tourists
Napier City Council seems to be having a few problems with freedom campers’ toilet habits, after having brought in a new bylaw allowing for freedom camping at five reserves across the city.
Many parts of New Zealand are facing similar public backlashes on these types of issues at the moment, but we must be careful not to have knee jerk reactions. Next thing inbound airlines will be required to play inflight videos teaching tourists how to use New Zealand toilets!
"In our view it's not working. We're really quite concerned about it. It's undermined the campgrounds and the backpacker lodges and resulted in people in cars and small vans sleeping all around in our public areas and that's unacceptable," he said.
"It's one thing having a nice campervan parked on your foreshore. It's another thing having people cooking on primus stoves with their washing hanging out between two vans and urinating in the bushes."
6. Vamos a Buenos Aires!
For those of you that missed it, Air New Zealand is going to begin thrice weekly services to Buenos Aires at the end of the year.
Those glaciers of Patagonia, Iguazu Falls, and the culture of Buenos Aires will be closer than ever. Imagine watching Boca Juniors play at the footballing legend Diego Maradona’s home ground and experiencing fan fanaticism first hand!
"South America was once the domain of the intrepid explorer, but the direct service to Buenos Aires, with a flight time of around 12 hours, means a quick and action packed getaway is now a reality.
"Buenos Aires is the most popular tourist city in South America and is a perfect stepping stone for those who then want to explore the country, or continent, further."
"We’ve been very clear about our aspirations for growth in the Pacific Rim. Our flights to Singapore commence next month and this new route to Buenos Aires further strengthens our network in the Pacific Rim. Argentina is an exciting new destination for New Zealanders, and with seamless one-stop connectivity through Auckland it will provide a fantastic opportunity for Australians as well."
Check out this commentator’s reaction a Lionel Messi goal at the World Cup:
7. Can selfies attract tourists to NZ?
Tourism New Zealand has recently been running a low cost social media marketing campaign, where some of the world’s top social media influencers on Instagram were brought out to travel the country in return for posting about their experiences.
The six social media gurus brought out have a combined 700,000 followers and generated an average of 4,000 likes per post they made during their trip!
Tourism New Zealand's research shows that Independent Professionals in Australia use social media to help inform them when they make decisions about holiday destinations. In fact, for many social media is their first source of travel information
"Leveraging the existing social media networks of our influencers has added another layer to our campaign because we have been able to showcase New Zealand's amazing scenery while also gaining advocacy for New Zealand as a holiday destination and for the authentic experiences on offer here.
"Not only have we been able to deliver high quality, inspiring imagery to a large and highly engaged audience through our influencers' social media channels, we have also gained some amazing imagery that we can use in our own social channels to further support the campaign."
8. Doing away with roaming charges
Data charges when roaming are daylight robbery, so travellers become pretty adept at sniffing out free WIFI hotspots around towns they visit.
A New Zealand company (TRNZ) is helping solve this dilemma, with digital travel guides for cars that double as WIFI hotspots.
TRNZ also happen to be looking to expand with equity raised via crowd funding (note: this is not investment advice, do your homework before deciding what to do with your pennies).
TRNZ is currently producing new In-Car technology to be delivered via an Android device. This new technology will add functionality to the current In-Car device by having point to point navigation and Wi-Fi hotspot integration. This new technology has been in development since March 2014 and is currently in early stage testing in preparation for rollout by late 2015.
9. The funny side to one star ratings
Providing reviews and reading them are such integral components of all the various travel apps and booking mechanisms available to the modern tourist.
I generally only look at stuff with a reasonable review, but perhaps for entertainment purposes I should set my bar lower. The article looks at a range of New Zealand’s visitor attractions – here are some gems for the wonderfully exciting Rainbow’s End:
‘"The waiting lines for rides are as long as the great wall of china, would rather watch grass grow" – Kazaknz.
"Theme parks from third world countries are better" – lagalag95’
With independent travel by Chinese visitors pushing up tourism activity in places off the beaten track, many tourism operators should go out of their way to learn a few greetings in Mandarin and be aware of differences in cultural norms.
But don’t worry, it also turns out that Chinese have been receiving government advice for years on how they should behave in foreign countries.
‘Don't leave footprints on public toilet seats. [No mention of whether standing on the toilet in the first place is good form or not.]
Don’t dry handkerchiefs on lampshades.
Hungarians do not appreciate you smashing their mirrors.’
* Benje Patterson is an economist at Infometrics. He specialises in forecasting and analysis of the transport sector, tourism, fiscal policy, the external sector, and the international economy.