Trans-Tasman disasters bring new tourism bond

By Pam Neville

The Christchurch earthquake has generated new cooperation between Australian and New Zealand tourism authorities, with New Zealand offered a free platform to pitch for business at Australia's major annual tourism trade show.

Travel agents and wholesalers from 40 countries will attend Australian Tourism Exchange next week and for the first time ever Tourism New Zealand - a traditional competitor - will be part of the event, showcasing New Zealand.

The earthquake, and the floods and cyclone which hit Queensland this year, have the potential to devastate tourist numbers long-term for both countries. The new cooperation is aimed at getting the message to the world that New Zealand and Queensland are both safe to visit, and most of their tourism operations are open for business.

"We are in the same boat," says Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy. "We have to get the message across that we're recovering."

He says the decision to invite New Zealand to Australia Tourism Exchange was a reaction to the devastation in Christchurch, and the understanding - knowing how tourist numbers dropped after the Queensland floods and cyclone - that the disaster would affect tourism nationally.

"Our two countries will compete where we need to, but in a situation like this we are better as a team. It's the Anzac spirit. When we saw what happened in Christchurch we understood."

The Australian government has just spent $10 million on tourism recovery in Queensland, under the banner Nothing Beats Queensland, including a $1million campaign for April targeting New Zealand tourists, and bringing 100 international travel writers to the state last week.

In the Whitsunday Islands in northern Queensland, most resorts are back to normal after Cyclone Yasi, although Hayman Island remains closed, and in Brisbane the worst flood-hit hotel, the Stamford Plaza, reopens tomorrow.

The profile of retired cricketer Matthew Hayden, a Queenslander, is being used to promote the aggressive marketing campaign.

Again in the Anzac spirit, Australia Tourism is hoping Tourism New Zealand will return the favour and invite it to Trends, New Zealand's major annual tourism trade show.

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