Theme: Visitor experience (2014)

We recognise that tomorrow's visitors are unlikely to want more of the same: our changing visitor mix brings with it the challenge of changing expectations. The Tourism 2025 framework prompts us to listen carefully to our visitors, constantly hone our understanding of visitor needs and continuously improve our visitors' experience.


(This document was created for the launch of Tourism 2025 in March 2014. It is not updated. See Tourism 2025 - Two Years On for the latest information on the growth framework.)

The 2025 outcome

Individually and collectively, we are increasing visitor value by increasing visitor satisfaction. By putting ourselves in the shoes of our visitors, by building on what we are doing well and by eliminating areas of dissatisfaction, we are seeing visitors stay longer, travel more widely, and spend more.

How we're getting there

  • Individually, designing and delivering oustanding and uniquely New Zealand visitor experiences.
  • Individually, using relevant tools to measure visitor satisfaction, to reinforce what is being done well, and to help us identify and eliminate causes of dissatisfaction.
  • Individually and collectively, ensuring our visitors are properly informed and better equipped to enjoy their visit.
  • Collectively, working with relevant government agencies and Kiwis, to keep our visitors safe.
  • Individually and collectively, identifying and either eliminating or mitigating visitor facilitation barriers.



Executive summary

From the early stages of the Tourism 2025 project, the industry endorsed the objective of driving economic growth (improvements in yield, profitability and return on investment) while retaining a close strategic link to the quality of the visitor experience.

Those working in the industry recognise the importance of looking after our visitors. We are proud of the fact that most international travellers genuinely enjoy and value the warmth of the Kiwi welcome and care they receive from New Zealanders. There are two compelling reasons that provide New Zealand with a competitive advantage when it comes to our visitor offering - our natural environment and our indigenous Maori culture.  Both play an important role in the visitor experience and give us a competitive advantage over the rest of the world.   

Domestic visitors also expect the same high level of welcome and service. The visitor experience is a vital ingredient in the decision to travel domestically rather than overseas. In effect we are competing with international destinations for all of our visitors – domestic and international. 

Our industry must commit to continuously improve the quality of the experience we provide to international and domestic visitors.

Recognising the challenges of fully defining, mapping and examining each component of the visitor experience cycle, Tourism 2025 focuses on visitor satisfaction and visitor facilitation. Included within this is a focus on robustly identifying and then committing to removing the common causes of visitor dissatisfaction.


New Zealand's competitive advantage

New Zealand’s natural environment is a valuable asset and a compelling reason why international visitors choose our country over others. The environment is integral to many tourism businesses, in particular those operating on public conservation land, as well as being the backdrop for thousands of tourism businesses.   

Maori culture gives New Zealand a distinct identity on the global stage. Tourism experiences which share Maori history, culture and tradition with visitors provide a point of difference that complement our environmental offering and set us apart from many of our competitors.

But New Zealand has developed its own cultural footprint that visitors quickly warm to. This Kiwi culture or 'Kiwitanga' is seen as relaxed, friendly, hospitable and warm. Kiwitanga, typified by things such as our casual dress sense, language, hospitality and our love of sport is something that we are only starting to appreciate. 

TIME Unlimited Tours
Photo: TIME Unlimited Tours

Our natural environment is integral to the visitor experience

Our visitors tell us that New Zealand’s natural environment is front and centre for them when they are deciding where to go on holiday:

  • 35% of international visitors said our spectacular landscapes and natural scenery made them seriously consider visiting New Zealand
  • 29% of international visitors said New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes and natural environment was the most important factor in their decision to visit New Zealand
  • When asked what activities and attractions international visitors participated in while in the country, walking and trekking was the most popular activity followed by scenic and natural attractions.

Source: IVS, Jan-Mar 2013 and TNZ's 100% Middle-Earth Campaign Effectiveness Research 

The environment and the tourism brand

Our landscapes and flora and fauna are a vital component of the Destination New Zealand brand. Tourism New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed 100% Pure New Zealand marketing campaign tells the story of how our unique combination of landscapes, people and activities cannot be found anywhere else in the world – it is a '100% Pure New Zealand' visitor experience.

The New Zealand Story is a new initiative to help export companies from all industries gain a competitive advantage internationally by building a strong, consistent profile for the country. Launched in November 2013, it will help businesses show our global markets the unique value of New Zealand, including our deep connection to the environment and kaitiaki of our natural world.

Tourism and the conservation estate

Around one–third of New Zealand is public conservation land, incorporating 14 National Parks which are home to many of our most treasured natural attractions. More than 4500 businesses, including guided activities, ski fields, bungy jumping and transport services, operate on public conservation land. Concessionaries ensure that travellers can experience and enjoy our natural environment. These businesses underscore the important relationship between tourism and conservation. The partnership between the tourism industry and the Department of Conservation (DOC) which manages New Zealand’s conservation estate has grown significantly stronger in recent years, in particular since DOC established a commercial business unit to encourage businesses to invest in conservation. One example is Air New Zealand’s conservation partnership with DOC to promote and protect the Great Walks and preserve threatened species (see case study below).  

A leadership role

Responsible tourism starts with individual tourism businesses embracing sustainable practices in their business. This ranges from recycling and introducing energy saving practices to joining international environmental accreditation programmes. New Zealand tourism operator Whale Watch Kaikoura’s conservation efforts saw it receive the highest accolade in the global Responsible Tourism Awards. As a Maori-owned company, Whale Watch Kaikoura says it cherishes the twin values of manaaki to visitors and reverence for the natural world - it is a philosophy that embraces people, the land, the sea and all living things as one. Sector groups such as the holiday parks have entered into commercial alliances to benefit conservation, including partnerships with ecologically responsible suppliers.

Responsible tourism is about respecting, protecting and benefiting local communities, cultures and the environment. For travellers, this can mean making holiday choices with these concerns in mind, from the destinations they visit and the way they travel, to the services they choose once they arrive.

For our industry, it is about meeting the expectations of travellers and protecting what is unique and special about destination New Zealand. It can also be about the bottom line, with many operators recognising that responsible tourism practices boost profits by cutting consumption, introducing more energy efficient practices, and achieving a marketing edge over the competition.

Advocating for the environment

The natural environment is fundamental to the success of our tourism industry, our brand and the way we are perceived internationally. The tourism industry has a responsibility to protect the environment and uphold our brand at both a strategic and operational level. In a viral world, any damage to this position, whether perceived or real, will attract scrutiny and criticism, even if New Zealand is better at managing its environment than our competitors.

Case Study: Air New Zealand conservation partnership

Air New Zealand and the Department of Conservation have been working in partnership for conservation since 2012.

The Great Walks
Air New Zealand supports conservation biodiversity projects to bring back some of New Zealand’s rarest birds to the Great Walks, and also promotes the Great Walks – encouraging New Zealanders to get amongst it and international visitors to come here to experience “nine unforgettable journeys”.

Threatened Species Translocation programme
Air New Zealand has transported some of New Zealand’s most endangered species (birds, reptiles and invertebrates) between regional centres as part of an active recovery programme to safe new breeding sites around the country.

air nz endangered species

Photo: Air New Zealand helps transport endangered species around the country

Marine reserves
DOC’s marine reserves attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and include a network of iconic destinations from the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve off the coast of Northland to Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve located around Stewart Island/Rakiura in the south.

Air New Zealand’s support will allow DOC to expand its marine monitoring programme in these reserves, providing vital research into species population numbers. They will also promote these reserves, highlighting the important role marine environments play in a quintessential part of the Kiwi life style - a day at the beach.

Source: Department of Conservation

Maori tourism

Maori tourism is already part of the overall New Zealand experience, but there is potential to expand the range and scope of Maori experiences for the benefit of the Maori and general tourism sectors and the New Zealand economy as a whole.

Demand for indigenous culture in New Zealand is high. Tourism New Zealand undertook research in 2011 in six core markets (Australia, China, Germany, Japan, UK, USA) to assess which of a range of special interests held opportunity for New Zealand to target. Respondents were ‘actively considering’ New Zealand as a holiday destination and were asked about 24 special interest areas and to indicate which ones they were personally interested in and would consider participating in when on holiday. Indigenous culture was the highest ranking of the 24 activities and featured in the top quartile in all markets except Australia where it ranked in the second top quartile. (Targeting Special Interests)

Elements of Maori culture add value to tourism experiences. TNZ research shows that about three quarters of those who participated in an activity with a Maori cultural element said it improved their satisfaction with the activity (Tourism NZ Visitor Experience Monitor: Maori Cultural Activities Summary 2008/11).

Visitors to New Zealand are interested in Maori culture and also in New Zealand culture.  New Zealand has developed its own cultural footprint that visitors quickly warm to.  This Kiwi culture or "Kiwitanga” is seen as relaxed, friendly, hospitable and warm.  Kiwitanga is typified by things such as our casual dress sense (bare feet, jandals and shorts), language (sweet as, kia ora, bro), hospitality (call in anytime, ladies a plate - men a crate) and our love of sport (All Blacks, stadium of four million, haka).  Kiwitanga is something that we are only starting to appreciate.  There are enormous opportunities to leverage value from the Maori tourism sector, these include:

  • Culture to culture experiences – visitors to New Zealand are changing from our traditional western markets towards those from the east where cultural engagement is important. Culture to culture relationships built during delegations to China have led directly to business deals and show that there is value in engaging at a cultural level rather than as a direct business transaction or experience.
  • Authentic experiences – visitors are discerning about their cultural experiences and we must provide authentic and not contrived experiences and products, including the provision of contemporary and not just traditional types of experience.  Similarly, we need to ensure that our promotions and marketing offshore are authentic and contemporary and do not continue the stereotypes of Maori tourism as haka, hangi and hongi.
  • Leveraging cultural connections – there is immense and untapped value in Maori cultural and whakapapa connections with other cultures including but not limited to e.g. the Austronesian connections between Maori and Taiwanese hill tribes has a strong resonance with Chinese visitors.

There are four critical work areas to better realise the opportunities in Maori tourism:

  • Building quality and capability: Developing more high quality Maori tourism businesses that make commercial gain from cultural engagement.
  • Branding and promotions: Utilising authentic Maori tourism experiences and imagery to promote and market New Zealand offshore and; reinforcing the ‘New Zealand Inc’ brand by promoting the cultural values of Brand Maori.
  • Tourism and Trade: Leveraging trade relationships to create tourism opportunities and maximising tourism relationships to leverage trade opportunities.  The key to this work are building culture to culture relationships that then convert to business.
  • Regions and major centres: Cultivating diverse Maori tourism businesses that provide unique cultural experiences.



The importance of outstanding customer service

The tourism sector is diverse and each business builds their own experience platform for their customers. Such products are authentic to them and are packaged to meet the needs of their customers.  

A transport operator, for example is creating a platform that provides the visitor with an experience that takes the visitor on a journey to or from the destination and is seamless in every respect.

At the destination, a diverse range of businesses from accommodation through to attraction and activity operators will create their own unique platform that is packaged to meet the needs of the customer. The visitor will participate in, enjoy and learn from the products, services and facilities on offer.

Many tourism businesses and organisations are doing a great job in creating an experience platform where the visitor will recall and share the details of a memorable visit through pictures, stories and souvenirs with friends and family during their travels and when they return home. But that is not enough. We need to consistently deliver experiences that exceed visitors’ expectations.  

A focus on delivering an outstanding experience, including superior customer service for our visitors is the ultimate driver for a growing world class and profitable industry.


Case Study: Dive! Tutukaka

Jeroen Jongejans

By Jeroen Jongejans, Director, Dive! Tutukaka

The creation of the outstanding visitor experience is the natural consequence of the stunning environment we operate in, matched by an excellent company culture.

The environment is unique and protected by statue as a result of passionate people being real stakeholders and making a stand.

Our company culture is achieved through a strong selection process where genuine values are mixed with a strong dose of adventure, fun and discovery.

We have a genuine relationship with both our environment and fellow staff members, and they are a talented bunch of inspirational people!

This mix of an awesome environment and passionate staff is so infectious that the delivery of our product is engaging, genuine, extraordinary and memorable.

It is also an example of how we can work with and for the environment, and showcase the best of what we can offer in New Zealand, which is truly world class!


diving nz

Photo: Dive! Tutukaka/Laurent Benard



Summary of key findings

  • The big picture – the significance of change
    The rapidly and radically changing global tourism market and New Zealand’s fast-changing visitor profile have created uncertainty for the industry. We don’t know our international or domestic customers as well as we need to. And we don’t have the right tools in place to ask the most important questions to give us the insight and market intelligence we need to make necessary ‘visitor experience’ changes.

  • The link between experience and value
    There is a clear link between the visitor experience and economic value. If we fail to focus on systematically delivering quality, our economic return will be limited.

  • Visitor experience
    Enhancing the visitor experience requires consciously evaluating each stage of the visitor experience cycle, from wishing to experience a destination to sharing details of the visit with friends and family. Every element in every stage of the cycle contributes positively or negatively to the experience.

    Overall, tourism businesses and organisations are doing a good job in creating an experience platform where the visitor will recall and share the details of a memorable visit through pictures, stories and souvenirs with friends and family when they return home. A focus on delivering an outstanding experience, including superior customer service for our visitors is the ultimate driver for a growing world class and profitable industry.  
  • Gaps in measurement of visitor satisfaction, particularly causes of dissatisfaction
    A number of New Zealand tourism industry organisations skilfully measure visitor satisfaction and act on this insight to improve the quality of the experience they offer. However, in general there is little apparent appetite to use insight and intelligence gained from such an approach to drive targeted industry-wide improvement in on-the-ground performance.

    Tourism 2025 presents the opportunity for the industry to commit to the development and implementation of a strategic approach to reliably measure international and domestic visitor satisfaction, with a strong focus on identifying causes of visitor dissatisfaction. To be effective, operators at all levels need to measure and understand drivers of dissatisfaction, at a business level as well as the key themes that are emerging at a national level. Doing so  will enable us to rigorously and transparently use such results to assess and improve industry performance, including the active removal of the most common and important causes of dissatisfaction.
  • Improve visitor facilitation
    To reap the full benefits that international tourism can bring to our economy, it is necessary to put in place systems that make New Zealand easy to research, to enter and to visit.

    Visitor facilitation covers a wide range of areas such as visas, customs and immigration, cash and credit cards, obtaining driver’s licences and insurance.

    Given that New Zealand finds itself in an increasingly competitive global race for the tourism dollar, it is essential that our industry does everything reasonably possible to remove or lower barriers and to ensure the overall experience for our visitors is as easy and efficient as possible.

    Tourism 2025 presents the opportunity to develop an industry-wide strategic approach to visitor facilitation. Because of the close correlation between ‘satisfaction’ and ‘facilitation’, the approach should be closely integrated with the ‘visitor satisfaction’ strategic approach outlined above.




The big picture

Several significant tourism trends are impacting on our industry and support the call to improve levels of visitor satisfaction and facilitation:

  • New Zealand’s visitor composition is changing and our source markets are becoming more diversified. It is critical that we understand new market preferences around areas like food and beverages, cultural requirements and preferred payment methods in order to deliver higher levels of satisfaction.
  • We need to meet the rising expectations of visitors around the level of digital connectivity available to them during their New Zealand travels, for example free or cheap wifi.
  • With a propensity for visitors to stay for shorter periods, there is a need to lift the quality of the visitor experience cycle in order to achieve greater expenditure growth from short stay high value visitors.
  • Social media is becoming an important tool for industry to measure and track visitor feedback and disseminate word of mouth marketing.
  • With many destinations significantly improving visa processes, it is critical our visa process is simple and transparent in order for New Zealand to remain competitive.
  • With the emergence of new tourism destinations, it is vital New Zealand delivers a world class visitor experience to ensure we retain and grow market share, and ensure repeat visits and positive word of mouth.



The link between visitor experience and economic value

The visitor experience encompasses a number of elements which make it complex to show a definitive link with economic value. The following, however, illustrates the potential impact on business revenue through an improved visitor experience.

Global examples

Delivering a great customer experience is important to gain a business advantage and improve results, yet businesses have only just begun to address key customer experience drivers.

The financial stakes are high if the visitor experience is not improved. Rising customer expectations and social media are making it imperative for organisations and businesses to have strong customer experience strategies in place to mitigate revenue loss. 

Figure 1 indicates that globally 23% of potential travel industry revenue can be lost by not offering a positive, consistent and brand-relevant visitor experience, yet only 37% of travel organisations have an advanced customer experience programme in place.


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A survey of more than 1300 senior executives across 18 countries (figure 2) shows that there are still obstacles to overcome and that formalised customer experience programmes should be implemented to ensure a high level customer experience.


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The value of improving visitor satisfaction is supported by The Center for Hospitality Research (Making customer satisfaction pay: connecting survey data to financial outcomes in the hotel industry, 2010). It suggests that hotel customer satisfaction is significantly correlated to ancillary spending on items such as restaurants, room service, day spa and recreation facilities. The ‘delighted’ guest spends more on additional products and services at the hotel compared to spending by ‘dissatisfied’ guests (US$48 versus US$27). Delighted guests also increase ancillary spending during subsequent visits by an average of US$10.

Watermark Consulting  studied the total returns of two model Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P500) stock portfolios comprising the ‘top 10’ (leaders) and ‘bottom 10’ (laggards) publicly traded companies in Forester Research’s Annual Customer Experience Index Ranking. The results for the six year period 2007 to 2012 show the customer experience leaders in the study significantly outperformed the broader market, generating a total return three times higher on average than the S&P500 (Return on investment study, Watermark Consulting).

New Zealand study

Angus & Associates Visitor experience drives value study supports the view that satisfied visitors spend more than dissatisfied visitors. Figure 3 shows very satisfied visitors have a significantly higher average daily expenditure per person ($174) compared with dissatisfied visitors ($118).


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This study also highlights:

  • There is a direct relationship between satisfaction with the visitor experience and propensity to return to a region. 74% of all visitors who were very satisfied indicated that they were very likely to return to a region, while only 31% of dissatisfied visitors indicated they were very likely to return. 
  • There is a direct relationship between satisfaction with the visitor experience and the propensity to recommend a region. 78% of those who were very satisfied were very likely to recommend the region compared with 15% of dissatisfied visitors who were very likely to recommend a region.

To meet a goal of offering a world class visitor experience New Zealand needs to reduce the number of visitors who are not highly satisfied with their New Zealand experience (not highly satisfied is defined as those rating their overall visit to New Zealand 1 to 7 on a 10 point scale where 1 is ‘not at all satisfied’ and 10 is ‘extremely satisfied’). Figure 4 illustrates that, based on the 2011/2012 Visitor Experience Monitor (VEM), 11% of visitors across all markets were not highly satisfied.

If this was extrapolated into arrivals for the year ending June 2012, it would mean that just under 300,000 arrivals were not highly satisfied with their New Zealand experience.


 Link to graph source - VEM, IVA



Visitor experience

Visitor Experience Cycle

To deliver a world-class visitor experience it is critical to focus on each component of the visitor experience cycle. The various stages of the cycle should be consciously evaluated to maximise the potential to positively impact on a visit. Every element in every stage of the cycle can contribute positively or negatively to a visitor’s experience. (Setting the Stage for Visitor Experiences in Canada’s National Heritage Places, Ed Jager and Annique Sanche).

The visitor experience cycle is divided into seven stages

Wishing - the potential visitor is aware of and wants to experience the products and services, the opportunities available and the resulting experiences they may enjoy.

Planning - the potential visitor is deciding on the destination that best meets their interests, needs and expectations. The visitor needs to have access to full details surrounding the potential visit.

Travelling - the potential visitor is on their way to a destination. Their journey needs to be straightforward and clear.

Arriving - the visitor is welcomed and receives orientation information and details regarding the products and services.  

Visiting - the visitor participates in, enjoys and learns from the products, services and facilities on offer.

Leaving - the visitor had an enjoyable, meaningful, satisfying, safe and fun visit.

Remembering - the visitor recalls and shares the details of their visit through pictures, stories and souvenirs with friends and family, in person and through social media.


Visitor decision-making process

Angus & Associates’ Visitor decision-making process (figure 5) highlights that consumers go through several stages in deciding which destination to visit. Their experience during each stage contributes to their overall visitor experience for that destination. The experience begins when a traveller becomes aware of a destination and continues through to sharing their experiences with friends and family after they return home.


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Visitor satisfaction

A Spanish study found that monitoring satisfaction is one of the most essential tools used to gather information regarding visitors’ opinions of a destination (Satisfaction And Dissatisfaction With Destination Attributes: Influence On Overall Satisfaction And The Intention To Return, Joaquin A Marin and Jaume G Taberner). Such measures usually include evaluation of different destination or product attributes using a scale on which the visitor has the ability to express their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Examples of visitor satisfaction measurements

The New Zealand Visitor Experience Monitor

The New Zealand Visitor Experience Monitor (VEM) was run annually by Tourism New Zealand until 2011/2012. It explored a variety of themes, including key components of international visitor satisfaction during their New Zealand trip. Visitor responses were measured in terms of overall satisfaction (figure 6) and then further broken down into categories, including accommodation, food and beverage, internal transport, activities, i-SITES, environment and safety.


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Figure 7 demonstrates the evolution in the way visitor experience is measured at a national level. Starting in 2013, a module in the International Visitor Survey (IVS) will replace the VEM as the national level visitor satisfaction collection tool. The key changes are summarised below:



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Other New Zealand examples of visitor experience measurement

The New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI) and the Tourism 2025 Project Team conducted research to understand how the visitor experience is currently measured across the tourism industry (Monitoring the Visitor Experience in New Zealand Summary, NZTRI). Some examples are:

  • Air New Zealand provides a very good example of an organisation that has customer service and feedback at the heart of its business. It has a heavy focus on sophisticated customer feedback tools with a team dedicated to managing research and insight. Innovation within Air New Zealand is strongly influenced by customers. Air New Zealand identifies areas of opportunity across the business from customer feedback and drives change to enhance customer experience.
  • Responses from a sample of overnight visitors interviewed at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown airports shows most were satisfied with airport facilities and services. Areas of dissatisfaction related to the range and quality of food and beverage choices, toilet and shower facilities, and access between international and domestic terminals. Airline check-in services, baggage reclaim facilities and the range of food and beverage options were other areas needing improvement.
  • Large hotel chains use software that asks guests for their opinion after they have stayed. The hotel is then benchmarked against previous months and against each other. These hotels also use software that derives information from social media sites to measure performance month-on-month and compare against competitors’ data.
  • Around 35% of Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) have conducted some form of visitor research in the past five years. Usually these surveys are one-off projects, or in a few cases are conducted annually. Not all of these surveys/results are publicly available and they generally don’t elaborate on areas of dissatisfaction.
  • A small number of RTOs have had a private research organisation conduct monthly private household surveys. These surveys monitor visitor numbers and nights, but do not gather visitor satisfaction data.
  • Not all of the 29 RTOs in New Zealand collect their own visitor satisfaction data. Often they simply make use of the nationally collected data for their region such as the former Regional Visitor Monitor (RVM), the International Visitor Survey and the Visitor Experience Monitor. It is likely that RTOs are conducting visitor surveys (or have other ways of gathering visitor feedback) but there is little evidence of this information online or being publicly available.
  • Some galleries and museums collect visitor satisfaction data but very few make it publicly available. Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, conducts a visitor profile interview. This feedback mechanism is mainly concerned with satisfaction relating to the experience of visiting the museum, not Wellington or New Zealand.
  • A number of businesses in the backpacker sector run visitor satisfaction surveys but these reports are not publicly available. The Budget Backpacker Hostels (BBH) network annually conducts a hostel ratings survey. These hostel ratings are available on the BBH website but lack any further information on the reasons underlying the satisfaction levels.
  • New Zealand Customs Service recently introduced an online approach to surveying passengers that is now being conducted quarterly. This allows them to look at passenger satisfaction by nationality and by other key variables such as whether SmartGate was used or not.
  • There is a great range in the quality of visitor data collected by various organisations and businesses. Some organisations use their own in-house approach to gather data from visitors, whereas others outsource data collection to a third party.
  • Overall, visitor research conducted at a sub-regional or local level is difficult to find and not usually publicly available. There is a lack of in-depth research about visitor satisfaction. Most surveys that ask about satisfaction only ask respondents to indicate their level of satisfaction on a scale (e.g. 1-10), and do not ask the reason why they are or aren’t satisfied.

Case study: Improving the Interislander Experience

Greg Smith Product Development Interislander compressed

By Greg Smith, Product Development Manager, Interislander

Interislander has carried out a passenger satisfaction survey to gauge our performance relative to customer expectations since 2003. Initially this was carried out the old-fashioned way with clipboard and pens on board certain sailings. This changed in 2010 with a shift to an online survey which could reach more people, more often, in a cost effective way. The surveys are distributed using getsmart from Angus & Associates.

We currently collect over 20,000 survey responses per year on a wide variety of questions across the whole customer journey. This indicates that customers are very willing to take the time to tell us what they think, both good and bad.

As a company we have a responsibility to act on this information. Interislander has many diverse teams and locations, from head office, to terminals and ships. The challenge in a large organisation is getting customer information into the hands of those who can make the biggest difference to service delivery. 

To achieve this, we switched from sending out static reports (a push approach) to making the data available online where it could be accessed by front-line managers and staff. This ‘pull’ approach empowers customer-facing staff to better understand customer needs. The results are made available to Interislander staff via a cloud-based tool we call COMPASS – customer insight software provided by Midas Infomedia.

Distributing this data more widely helps to bring varied business units and roles together around the common goal of ensuring that the customer leaves with great memories. The most visible evidence of this is the creation of a Customer Experience Team made up of managers from customer-facing business units who meet regularly to work on experience problem solving and enhancement.

Of course, while the objective is to improve satisfaction there is always negative feedback. This arrives through various channels, such as survey responses, email, social media and onboard comments forms. All complaints are channelled through a single process and are logged before being assigned to the person responsible for the main area of complaint. This system ensures that the business unit accountable is aware of the issue, and ensures that the customer gets a response from the right person. Dealing with negative feedback promptly and professionally can often turn a dissatisfied customer into an advocate for the company.

Some challenges remain to improve our ability to listen to customers’ needs. While online surveys are efficient, international passengers tend to be under-represented due to factors such as disinclination to respond while on a longer holiday, and cultural and language barriers. We suspect that the answer may still lie in technology, with multi-language surveying at the point of service delivery. Already we are ready to add simplified Chinese surveys from March 2014.

We get it right, most of the time, but are well aware that Interislander in turn is only one part of the New Zealand experience. So doing it even better is always the goal.

Interislander case study replacement image compressed

Photo: Interislander


The power of social media

Direct visitor feedback

Tourism operators are using social media to get direct feedback from visitors through a variety of channels such as Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor. Activities and tour operators like NZSki Ltd and Shotover Canyon Swing use TripAdvisor as well as their own internal customer surveys to gather visitor feedback.

Offering visitors the ability to provide feedback via a broad range of social media tools, i.e. not limited to Facebook, will provide a key point of difference and enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a welcoming and responsive destination.

Social media analysis tools are available to aggregate and present reviews from a number of websites in one easy to digest format. This allows tourism businesses to stay on top of their online reviews in one easy-to-access place. It also saves them time and provides a tool to listen and analyse what their visitors are saying. This provides a valuable opportunity to improve the visitor experience, including addressing dissatisfaction immediately and potentially turning complaints into compliments.


The power of online reviews

Marketing tool

Social media is an essential tool to connect family, colleagues and friends. Its ability to cost effectively reach targeted audience segments is drawing increasing attention from marketers and researchers. For example, Tourism New Zealand says social media channels are proving to be an effective way to reach key target markets in China.

However, our industry needs to do more to engage with visitors via social media and online channels. A good example can be seen from research conducted by Victoria University of Wellington on the China visitor market (A New Era of Marketing New Zealand in China on Social Media Has Come!Dr Hongzhi Gao and Dr Mary Tate, 28 August 2013).

This research found that while reaching potential visitors in China is a good way of using social media, more can be done to extend and deepen our relationships with past, present and future visitors to New Zealand. The industry needs to engage with inbound visitors to create positive impressions of the New Zealand travel experience and then translate those positive experiences into a powerful word of mouth influence to other travellers in China.

Australia’s approach to measuring visitor satisfaction

Australia’s national and international surveys include questions on satisfaction which focus on specific areas of a visitor’s trip. A major international tourism research project into how consumers view Australia and the factors most likely to motivate them was recently undertaken by Tourism Australia. The scale and depth of the research is unprecedented and provides unique insights into consumer demand in 11 of Australia’s most important inbound markets. The findings show that most international markets have high expectations of Australia and for those who have visited, Australia is delivering on those expectations. 

Tourism Research Australia (TRA) also produces regional visitor profile and satisfaction reports. These include visitor expectations of the experience and satisfaction drivers. Visitors are asked what they expect to experience while visiting a regional destination and whether those expectations were met.

Australia’s National Landscapes Programme

Tourism Australia’s National Landscapes Programme provides a systematic approach to creating visitor satisfaction. The programme was launched in December 2006 with the announcement of Australia’s Red Centre as the first ’National Landscape’. Since then another 15 landscapes have joined the programme, completing the collection of 16.

The Experience Development Strategy (EDS) tool was developed as part of the programme to facilitate focused destination planning, development and marketing. It aims to improve Australia’s stock of world class landscape experiences and provide pathways to increase the Australian tourism industry’s contribution to conservation. Tourism Australia says developing the EDS through wide consultation was fundamental in order to capture stakeholder ideas, priorities and foster ownership of the strategy. The EDS will use the landscape destination’s positioning to define distinct visitor experiences and then determine essential requirements for delivery. This may include new or improved products, partnerships, facilities, services, access, communication, interpretation, marketing visitor management and infrastructure, and ways to better protect the environment or engage visitors.

Missing from New Zealand’s approach – a strong focus on causes of dissatisfaction

A great range of visitor satisfaction data is collected across the New Zealand tourism industry by various organisations and businesses. However, the Tourism 2025 Project Team discovered key areas are missing from monitoring the visitor experience, including:

  • no overarching cohesive strategic approach
  • no standardised high-level measurement tools
  • no deep insight into visitors from new or recently-emerged markets
  • no apparent widespread industry acceptance of the importance of the link between quality of visitor satisfaction and economic performance, both in the international and domestic spaces
  • no significant insight into what matters (and will generate increased value for our industry), and what doesn’t matter.

Visitor dissatisfaction levels have a greater bearing on a visitor’s intention to return to a destination than overall satisfaction (Satisfaction and dissatisfaction with destination attributes: influence on overall satisfaction and the intention to return). Negative experiences at the destination may not determine the visitor’s final evaluation of satisfaction, yet they make the destination less attractive, and therefore reduce the probability of return visits. This might be due to the tendency to rate holidays satisfactorily, given the personal and emotional involvement that is inherent in the experience and the associated cost.

There is currently an uneven concentration of measuring and acting to mitigate causes of dissatisfaction. The majority of research available on visitor dissatisfaction is conducted at the national level by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand and the Department of Conservation, but is not thoroughly analysed or disseminated regularly.

The core tourism data collected by MBIE is some of the most regularly collected data. However, the main focus is on visitor numbers, visitor nights and visitor expenditure with little focus on visitor satisfaction. The VEM, International Visitor Survey (IVS) and former Domestic Travel Survey (DTS) ask about overall satisfaction with the New Zealand trip on a scale of 1-10. Should a respondent indicate a satisfaction score of six or less in the IVS, they are asked for further comment.

Key areas of dissatisfaction identified in the VEM were:

  • too expensive
  • old facilities for accommodation
  • poor customer service for transport
  • did not live up to expectations for activities and tours

NZTRI identified that DOC visitor dissatisfaction is associated with:

  • crowding on tracks
  • quality of toilet facilities
  • lack of information
  • noise from air traffic

Analysing themes of dissatisfaction

To date, themes of dissatisfaction have not been fully analysed. A recent analysis by Waikato University (Australian and Chinese visitors to New Zealand – perceptions of accommodation and food and beverage, Chris Ryan, August 2013) is a first step. Themes of dissatisfaction for visitors from Australia and China are related to food and beverages, accommodation (perceived as being expensive, in need of modernising or refurbishment) and customer service. Other themes for Australian visitors were around the cleanliness of accommodation, the friendliness of hosts, the comfort and facilities of rooms, and value for money.

For visitors from China, there are issues with the standard of food being provided by many Chinese restaurants. There is a need to better understand regional cuisine differences, e.g. between Shanghai and Beijing and offer visitors a wider variety. We need further research to create a broader picture of dissatisfaction.

In a separate Tourism New Zealand study, Figure 8 shows areas of disappointments by each category for holiday tour group visitors.


Link to graph source

Verbatim comments captured from this research include:

  • Food: Restaurant (Chinese) food not good, not clean, too expensive, no New Zealand food, food in New Zealand not good
  • Shopping: Opening hours too short, shopping time too long, service not good, too expensive, don't know good brand, pressured, no China UnionPay, no price tags on goods, no free shopping time
  • Attraction/Activities: No Chinese signage, information or services, Maori cultural performance (not good, don't understand), no nightlife, too expensive/cost extra
  • Accommodation: No wifi/internet, no Chinese breakfast, no Chinese TV, not clean, poor standard, poor customer service, no Chinese signage/speaking staff
  • Time on the road: Too long, traffic jam
  • Tour guide: Service and/or attitude and/or knowledge not good
  • Weather: Not good
  • Customs: No Chinese language arrivals/departure card, too long, too strict, biosecurity issues
  • Wi fi/internet: No free wi fi, internet access generally in New Zealand
  • Airport facilities: No free wi fi or hot water or trolley airside
  • Coach: Not comfortable, driver not professional

There is a challenge in getting accurate data from New Zealand’s fastest growing market for international visitors. China visitors tend to be reluctant to provide negative feedback regarding their experiences when they travel. We could try a new approach to the types of questions we ask Chinese visitors in order to gain a more accurate account of their experiences in New Zealand without making them feel uncomfortable.

Te Papa provides a good example of an organisation that runs a regular survey to measure various aspects of the visitor experience (figure 9).  This survey mechanism provides the visitor with an opportunity to comment on areas of improvement. This can identify possible areas of dissatisfaction without being obvious. Visitor feedback is also collected via paper based comment cards, Te Papa also run short 4 question web surveys. Qualitative work is also occasionally undertaken by way of in-depth discussions with a limited number of visitors, typically about one single exhibition experience within the ‘whole museum experience’. Social media is also commonly used.


Link to graph source

Tourism businesses at all levels have an opportunity to understand  areas that cause dissatisfaction for their customers and areas where their business could improve the customer experience. There are a range of survey tools and templates (such as the Te Papa Visitor Profile Interview Survey) available that can be adapted cost effectively to meet business needs to allow the monitoring and tracking of dissatisfaction levels and provide Insight on areas where businesses can significantly improve their offering.



Visitor facilitation

Visitor facilitation covers a wide range of areas. Aspects of broader facilitation include, but are not limited to, visas, customs and immigration, cash and credit cards, obtaining driver’s licences and insurance.

Facilitation plays a very important role in a visitor’s overall experience. The key to successful facilitation is to make sure that all elements are aligned and seamless.  

New Zealand needs to improve the quality of experience in order to grow the value of the market, increase repeat visitation and generate positive word-of-mouth promotion. Value in the eyes of the visitor includes experiences as well as costs.

Examples of visitor facilitation

Visa facilitation

Making travel easier is integral to a great holiday. Creating seamless border experiences and removing barriers for people travelling to New Zealand is all part of enhancing the visitor experience.  

The border is New Zealand’s ‘shop window’. It’s vital our tourism industry has a border that meets security obligations but at the same time provides a warm and friendly face. First and last impressions count, and an encounter that strikes this balance will leave a favourable and lasting impression on visitors as they enter and leave the country. 

There is a strong link between visa facilitation and economic growth and we must view visas as growth enablers rather than barriers. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has made great progress in the past few years to liberalise visa processes. This includes implementing or exploring the following initiatives and opportunities:


Case study: Immigration New Zealand as an economic enabler

RobStevens resized 

By Rob Stevens, General Manager, Service Support, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

In recent times, the government has been reorienting Immigration New Zealand (INZ) making it very clear that it sees our role as an economic growth driver.  This reorientation was underscored last year with INZ becoming part of the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). 

In a wider economic sense, INZ is the gateway for the tourism industry and export education sector, worth $10 billion and $2 billion respectively in export earnings. In addition, migrant inflows add another $1.9 billion to New Zealand’s GDP.   These numbers highlighting INZ’s importance to tourism and export education, but have confirmed in the government’s mind that INZ must play a greater role in growing the tourism and export education sectors. 

Despite our best efforts to improve timeliness, processing paper-based immigration files remains a constraint to effective customer facilitation in an era when transactions are increasingly carried out online. So two years ago the government backed us by investing in the greater use of IT to change the way we do our business and better support key export sectors like tourism. 

That investment will soon bear fruit as we move to online visa processing, improve border security through better use of biometric information and work closely in ‘trusted partnerships’ with export industries. 

As we see it, INZ’s transformation and Tourism 2025 are coming together at the right time, especially with the growth potential from ‘visa required’ markets like China, India and Indonesia.  We also want to expand and target the ‘trusted partnership’ programme to work more closely with tourism players and execute some initiatives involving international students and their families.   

So we believe there are plenty of opportunities where INZ and the tourism industry can work together to grow value.  Where we can we will work with individual players, but ultimately we want to support a structured implementation plan that is delivered by the industry.

  • Expanding trusted partnerships between INZ and the tourism industry that present an opportunity to target high-value market segments: The partnerships already in place with China Southern Airlines and Air New Zealand to target high value Chinese visitors are good examples. Work is also underway to develop trusted partnerships in the export education sector.
  • Packaging industry partnerships alongside destination promotion and tourism product initiatives: A good example of how this can work is Tourism NZ’s Premier Kiwi Partnership (PKP) programme. Selected Chinese travel sellers are encouraged to meet or exceed targets around the number of visitors travelling to New Zealand on 'approved' higher-value itineraries, developed by inbound tour operators and their travel seller partners in China.
  • Supporting the tourism sector to develop the market for family visits to the 24,000+ international students from China studying in New Zealand: Industry partnerships through either an extension of the pilot running in the export education sector or with new tourism partners could offer streamlined visa processing at the time of enrolment. For example, offering multi–entry visas to the parents of students to encourage at least one trip to New Zealand while their child is studying here. There is also an opportunity to attract the 500,000+ international students studying in Australia to come to New Zealand on holiday.
  • Moving towards a more sophisticated online environment: In the last few years, INZ has invested in new technology to change the way business is done with the aim of delivering better, faster customer service and, ultimately, better support for sectors such as tourism.
  • INZ has demonstrated a strong commitment to continue a strategic dialogue with the tourism industry.


What our competitors are doing

There is a strong need to continue the momentum that INZ has been taking to improve visa facilitation. While we are more advanced in this area than some of our competitors, many are moving at a great pace to improve visa facilitation for international visitors. Examples include:

  • USA improving visa processes
    US Travel is working with Congress to build support for the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. This mirrors many of the pro-travel provisions in the immigration bill passed by the Senate. Among the JOLT Act's provisions:
    • Expand the highly successful USA. Visa Waiver Program that enables international travellers from approved countries to enter the USA without a visa
    • Expand the Global Entry program that expedites entry for preapproved, low-risk international travellers
    • Mandate expedited visa processing and reduced visa wait times for travellers who wish to visit the USA
    • Facilitate the use of secure video conferencing to conduct visa interviews by authorising a pilot program to test feasibility, which would provide increased access to a USA visa for potential travellers.
  • UK relaxes visa requirements
    In October 2013 the UK announced a relaxation of visa requirements for Chinese travellers. This was driven by a desire to have a bigger share of the Chinese visitor market and the flow on effects of improved Chinese investment in infrastructure. The new measures will simplify and speed up visa applications from China, e.g. Chinese business travellers will be able to apply for a ‘super-priority’ visa which will be processed within 24 hours rather than a week.
  • Korea has improved visas for South Asia
    South Korea has improved its visa process for many emerging markets in South Asia. Changes include reducing the number of required documents for application, introducing double entry visas and lengthening some validity periods from one to three years.
  • Indonesia immigration on board
    As a possible substitute for a traditional ‘visa on arrival’ system which had caused a backlog at many of its airports, Indonesia has developed a new type of travel document. Visitors coming from selected destinations can show an ‘immigration clearance card’ and pay a small fee to receive permission for an automatic 30 day visit. This alternative form of authorisation has reduced wait times for obtaining a visa on arrival.
  • Spain’s VisaTur authorisation system
    As a possible substitute for a traditional ‘visa on arrival’ system which had caused a backlog at many of its airports, Indonesia has developed a new type of travel document. Visitors coming from selected destinations can show an ‘immigration clearance card’ and pay a small fee to receive permission for an automatic 30 day visit. This alternative form of authorisation has reduced wait times for obtaining a visa on arrival.

Source: OECD – Facilitating Travel for Growth: Policies and Practices

By working more closely with INZ and other border agencies, our industry can help to improve overall facilitation and in turn enhance the visitor experience.

Figure 10 emphasises how the world is focusing on liberalising and facilitating visas, while recognising the risks involved.


Border Facilitation

Border facilitation is an area where there has been significant improvement of greater cooperation between government agencies, airports and airlines. The following case study highlights the approach Customs New Zealand is taking to border control.

Case Study: New Zealand Customs Service

OLeary John

By John O’ Leary, Team Leader, Performance Analysis and Reporting, New Zealand Customs Service

Customs provides vital border services that support New Zealand’s international trade and travel while protecting New Zealand from related risks. One of our key services is processing international passengers at airports and we encourage our staff to do so in the belief that New Zealand Customs is a welcome home and a welcome here.

A central part of this work has been developing ways to simplify and streamline the travel experience for passengers. In an environment of increasing travel volumes we need to do this without compromising security and in keeping with our intelligence-led, risk-based approach to border management. Our organisational focus is on achieving this balance with high assurance and a light touch.

The introduction of the automated passenger clearance system SmartGate is a highly visible example of this approach. SmartGate was initially available to eligible Australians and New Zealanders but is now open to US and UK ePassport holders on departure. Since its introduction in December 2009, passenger feedback has been very positive.

An integral part of developing our passenger processing services has been monitoring and using passengers’ feedback. In the past this took the form of a telephone survey conducted every two years, with a sample drawn from New Zealanders who had travelled overseas. The questions were largely based around the Common Measurements Tool (CMT) that is widely used in the public sector.

The CMT is a set of survey questions and scales that allow agencies that use it to measure client satisfaction and identify service delivery improvements. By using a common set of questions, agencies are able to compare their performance with other public sector agencies, with the Kiwis Count national survey, and also measure how they are progressing over time.

We have recently introduced a new approach to surveying passengers that continues to use the CMT but is different in two other important ways: it is conducted online and it includes all passengers i.e. New Zealanders and other nationalities. This means that we can look at passenger satisfaction by nationality and by other key variables e.g. whether SmartGate was used or not.

The results of our most recent survey show passenger satisfaction at 90% overall. Passengers using SmartGate show 93% satisfaction and passengers using manual processing show 87%, however, the real story is the trend behind these numbers. This shows that satisfaction levels with manual processing have remained the same since 2010 but satisfaction with SmartGate has gone up by over 10%.

These are positive results but we are also aware that this approach to measuring passenger satisfaction has limitations. The survey was only available in English and this explains why Asian travellers were under-represented. One of the reasons for conducting the survey quarterly is to allow us to modify our approach and we are now looking at how best we might capture the feedback from Asian passengers.

Customs continues to work on ways to enhance the travel experience for passengers, and our challenge in doing so is to make compliance easy to do and hard to avoid.

smartgate kiosk
Photo: SmartGate kiosk/NZ Customs Service

Digital connectivity – providing wifi

Countries and businesses are now looking to attract visitors by investing in wifi with the belief that it translates into happier visitors and a better image for their destination or organisation.

It is important for visitors to be able to check their itinerary, research attractions and local events, load maps and check out local restaurant reviews as they journey around a country.

Visitors also want to be able to immediately post photos and videos and share their experiences via social media. This is the new word-of-mouth. By not offering wi fi, New Zealand is missing an opportunity for visitors to promote an experience through social media channels in ‘real time’.

Examples of destinations taking the initiative in this area include:

  • Visitors to Taiwan register for the island’s free wi fi upon arrival, presenting their passports to a visitor office before being granted access. International visitors to Taiwan can now connect to the internet all over the country free of charge. The country has set up around 4400 ‘iTaiwan’ hotspots at major visitor attractions, transportation hubs and cultural establishments.
  • Visitors to Tokyo and Kyoto receive temporary cards granting them 14 days of free wi fi access.
  • Much of London is covered by Sky’s ‘Cloud’, a public wi fi network that operates over 16,000 wi fi hotspots throughout the UK.
  • South Korea is arguably leading the charge when it comes to government-sponsored internet access, with the national telecom company LG subsidising a free countrywide network that extends to taxis and underground trains.
  • Europe is providing a high level of free wi fi options in hotels (figure 11) compared to other parts of the world.


Link to graph source

New Zealand is cautiously extending wifi

While some New Zealand tourism businesses, such as hotels and youth hostels, are offering free or cheap wifi, more needs to be done.

There is positive movement, including:

  • Telecom is expanding and commercialising its national wifi network. It has 700 hotspots in selected public phone boxes and will extend this to more than 2000 hotspots by the middle of 2014.
  • Auckland Airport recently launched a new public wifi product in response to growing expectations from passengers for easy and free connectivity. The new service within the airport’s terminals provides a free 30-minute option alongside various paid time based access options.

Areas of wifi concern

With regards to the wifi service currently provided in New Zealand, there are still areas of concern, including:

  • questions around the performance of wi fi, particularly the speed
  • the security of the service
  • ease of use – a number of different systems are operating
  • the capacity of the service – large hotels may have several guests downloading videos
  • poor reception in many areas of the hotel (particularly in the public and conference areas)
  • poor reception in some regions of New Zealand

Survey - visitors’ opinions on wifi in hotels:

  • 61% of those surveyed said that internet was the most important additional facility in their hotel room, above TV (17%), bath (5%), fridge (3%) and mini bar (1%)
  • Logging onto the internet in their room when they first arrive topped the list of things that help travellers feel most at home in their hotel room (31%), above exploring the room (25%), taking a hot shower (14%) or even unpacking (13%)
  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of travellers say that they would prefer to communicate with people back home over the internet rather than using the phone
  • Over half of parents (53%) surveyed cited connecting with family at home as the best way to de-stress at the end of a working day while travelling
  • 89% said that free internet would make them happier while travelling for business
  • Nearly two thirds of respondents (65%), would be very unhappy if they had no way of connecting with loved ones back home
  • Domestic visitors in New Zealand say that cheap wi fi is more important than fast wifi with the former beating even TV as the top choice for most important tech item for accommodation.

Source:, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Travel Survey, Trade Me

Driver’s licences

Visitors driving in New Zealand on an overseas licence written in a language other than English must carry either an accurate English translation of the licence or an International Driving Permit. The translation must be from one of the following sources:

  • a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate
  • the authority that issued the overseas driver licence
  • a translation service acceptable to the NZ Transport Agency.

This had been identified as an issue for Chinese visitors as neither the diplomatic posts, nor the licence issuing authority, routinely provide translation services, meaning Chinese visitors often needed to get their licences translated by an approved New Zealand-based translation service. This issue was resolved recently by enabling Chinese visitors to use a Notary Public service in China prior to their departure to New Zealand. Tourism New Zealand is also working closely with the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) to provide targeted pre-arrival information about driving conditions in New Zealand to ensure visitors are well informed and prepared for the conditions they may experience, ensuring they have a safe holiday.

Payment facilities

Payment options are changing and evolving as New Zealand’s visitor markets change.

A good example is China UnionPay, the credit card preferred by Chinese travellers. China UnionPay currently has a global presence in 141 countries with 320 issuers around the world (Building a better Chinese tourist friendly destination, China UnionPay South Pacific). There are 3.5 billion cards issued for use at 1.5 million ATMs worldwide. New Zealand competitors are already reaping the benefits, e.g. The Ritz London trebled Chinese visitors in the six months after it introduced China UnionPay terminals and accepted its credit and debit cards. It is vital that tourism, hospitality and retail businesses in New Zealand have the ability to accept China UnionPay in order to facilitate the growth of Chinese visitor spend.

For January to June 2013, the total transaction value for China UnionPay in New Zealand was around RMB 767 million (NZ$151.3 million), up 50% on the previous year. A growing number of transactions were generated in regional New Zealand, showing that the Chinese Free Independent Traveller (FIT) segment is growing. Another interesting trend is that ATM transactions are increasing significantly compared with Point of Sale (POS) transactions.

Until recently, the Bank of New Zealand was the only bank able to accept China UnionPay. BNZ, Kiwibank and the New Zealand Credit Union (NZCU) accept cash withdrawals and balance checks from China UnionPay ATMs.

Compare this to Australia where, in May 2013, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) announced that it would accept China UnionPay cards at its 170,000 POS (Point of Sale) terminals. The bank expects to cover all its POS terminals by the end of the year, bringing the total number of POS terminals accepting China UnionPay cards to 50% of the total in Australia. 

To broaden the acceptance of China UnionPay in the New Zealand tourism industry, TIA recently confirmed a partnership with payment solutions company Smartpay.  TIA member businesses that choose to install a Smartpay terminal will be able to accept China UnionPay, regardless of which bank they belong to. This will enhance their ability to attract Chinese visitors and encourage those visitors to spend more.

GST-free Shopping

GST-free shopping for international visitors would enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a quality shopping destination and improve our international competitiveness. Refunding GST to international visitors should lead to an increase in the amount they spend, particularly on more expensive items.        

In order to protect the yield of participating retailers, a suggested minimum purchase level would encourage high-value shopping.   


Translation is a very important part of facilitation. A number of New Zealand tourism organisations are working on this issue.

For example, Auckland Airport is now displaying flight arrival and departure information in Chinese. The airport has installed new software allowing its flight information display boards to show information in multiple languages. Additional languages such as Japanese and Korean will be phased in shortly. Other multi-language initiatives introduced by the airport recently include updating main directional signs to include Chinese text. It has also introduced Mandarin-speaking volunteers to help Chinese visitors.

auckland airport
Photo: Auckland Airport flight information board/Auckland Airport

Tourism New Zealand’s destination marketing website is currently available in 20 editions and 10 languages. A 21st edition for Argentina (in Spanish) should be completed before the end of 2013. Different editions have content tailored to the market they serve.

Developing local language editions of is part of Tourism New Zealand's investment in the emerging markets of Latin America, Indonesia and India. Tourism New Zealand received $44.5 million in the 2013 Budget to invest in emerging tourism markets over four years as part of the government's internationally-focused growth package.




Immigration New Zealand was allocated $5 million to spend over the next four years to ensure visa application information is available in languages other than English through the new Immigration Global Management System. This capability will be built initially for the Chinese market, with other languages such as Indonesian, Spanish and Portuguese progressively rolled out.

An additional $2 million will be used by INZ to partner with key stakeholders to improve visitor facilitation even further, while adequately managing risk.

Insurance — ACC coverage

ACC is another great example of visitor facilitation, providing a trusted service that gives confidence for visitors to New Zealand.

New Zealand is the only country in the world where people are automatically protected with comprehensive, 24-hour, no-fault injury cover provided by the government.  

ACC has interpreters for over 30 different languages if travellers need information about ACC in their own language. Pacific and Asian advisors can provide cultural support and help.

ACC support may be available to visitors if they are:

  • injured in an accident within New Zealand
  • injured as a result of medical treatment while in New Zealand
  • in certain circumstances suffering from a health problem related to working in New Zealand

ACC is not a replacement for travel insurance. It does not cover things like illness, disrupted travel plans and lost deposits, assisted or emergency travel home, or travel for a relative.



What needs to happen now?

Our choices for maintaining a competitive advantage

While New Zealand has mechanisms in place to measure the visitor experience, competitors like Australia are catching up. To maintain and grow our competitive advantage we must proactively consider and implement options for improving the ways we measure the visitor experience. Doing nothing or waiting to see what our competitors do is not acceptable if we want to grow economic returns and new markets.