Domestic Tourism – Can We?

Move Aside The Assumptions Please


There is a lot of talk about the need for reinvention, using the opportunity of this crisis to pivot and look to the domestic tourism market in New Zealand. There is a a lot of dialogue at the moment around this subject both optimistic, pessimistic and really negative comments. It is an incredibly stressful time and for many, a panic reaction can set in leading us into new rabbit holes or possibly escape routes that bring new sunshine and passion.

I still can’t believe how many articles I am reading per day at the moment in amongst wedding the kids, shouting at them, cleaning up the house, walking kilometers every day to try and stay fit as well as deal with all the questions of “Oh God, What am I supposed to do now?  Something recently caught my attention when a piece I was reading broached the subject of “domestic tourism in New Zealand and how the kiwis haven’t been shown enough respect in the past.” The new “buzz” word in the hood is “Domestic Tourism” at the moment, a new term those of us in the tourism sector we have recently become VERY familiar with when it might be the only way we can put food on the table, never mind paying our teams.


Potential for new and/or improved offerings for our customers, responding to their needs coming out of COVID-19. Are there opportunities in areas adjacent to our offering – services that might be in the same family as ours where we could re-orient or change our capability?



The article talked about the respect that people living here in New Zealand would have or not have for the domestic tourism industry as we pivot and focus ENTIRELY NOW on the New Zealand resident. It talked about how they may travel only in their own country for some time and ultimately how that looks as far as turnover and staying alive, never mind being profitable for the tourism industry.  It was a hard article to read when you look at the experience some in New Zealand have received in the past with many treating the “kiwi” traveler with less than they deserve on many an occasion. The poor cousin perhaps?  Then there was a reference to how the kiwi market is a “hard sell” when they can expect too much and be quite demanding and picky. Some good thoughts to start and think about and work through.


Kiwis can’t wait to travel again


but it will be how that looks that defines a whole new industry.  Kiwis can “do it themselves” like no other nation I know.  Most have no qualms about hooking up a caravan, trailer tent. They are really good at booking their own accommodation, organising activities in fact, not much puts us off when it comes to just getting the job done.  However, the trend for a little bit of “hey can you just organise it for me, a little luxury, a bit of pampering began to take off, it just never seemed to get the same attention as international visitors seemed to.

I was asked recently to participate in research about what our “new normal” may look like as we twist and turn in an ocean full of fish who are desperately trying to survive.  My feelings are that we have a chance in what could be a longer-term change of habit for New Zealand residents to enjoy their own backyard as it were, but it takes more than a grimy newsletter with a few stock images, gaudy colours and a suggestion that you might want to visit something that seemed ok for an unsuspecting tourist and who can blame them?

At Love My New Zealand, we are already very lucky to have started over six years ago in the domestic tourism space, as we had no money to launch internationally and we relied heavily and still do on the reputation we have earned through our New Zealand customers to promote us internationally and you know something? It worked. You see the “kiwi” market may to some be a hard sell, but that presents some really good opportunities. It stretches us, makes us reach higher, deliver better, get innovative and actually take time to understand the “domestic market.”  You see, for me, I have something cool in my background in a lifetime in the service industry and for which I am so now very grateful.


It is a pleasure to serve you!


We recently asked our customers what was the one “not so good” thing that stood out for them when they thought about experiencing their own country.  Can you guess?


Poor Service


We all see it and please, by no means am I little Miss Perfect – we also make mistakes but if we are to have a chance at focussing on a market here with those that work, reside, labour, stress, enjoy, laugh, live and die in this country, then we have to NOW raise our bar as an industry and begin putting a huge amount of focus on the value we give within each touchpoint.

I was taught one thing in my long and interesting service career and that was – It is a pleasure to serve you!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with serving someone else, giving the gift of your attention, care in the finer detail, a smile that reaches the eyes, the extra thought that leaves a lasting memory and even if that person never remembers us, it leaves us with the knowledge we have done a great job.


Can residents benefit from domestic tourism?


I was asked this question twice last week and I am so pleased I was. It led me to a deeper understanding of how this is now a two-way street.  There is no doubt about it, the resident traveler didn’t always get a great deal, in fact, they often paid the price of a tourist or decided not to in most cases. So it is a wonderful opportunity to bring forth all the “knowledge” and “wisdom” and some incredible people with those high standards, accolades, awards, and ingenuity that will mean the kiwi traveler gets to see their own backyard in such a different light. An opportunity to say we are sorry for ignoring them, to apologise and put it right, and to make something happen that we as a country can be very proud of.


Can great service be trained into personnel


Some think not.  I have had conversations with some that think you either have it or you haven’t. That you are either a great concierge or you are not. I don’t agree. I think it takes leaders with the talent who have the eyes that smile, the warmth of character, the desire to serve to patiently pass that onto new people in our industry.

This is a time of not going back to what our normal was.  We can’t bring our flourishing international tourism industry back EVER. It has gone. However, we can step into a new portal, being brave in a new world and look at how lucky we are to have such a beautiful country that although there are flaws, we will want to travel through it, to live it, be a part of it, breathe in the new clean air, watch rivers flowing and yes, we know we have a long way to go to be 100% Pure but we can definitely do it.


Some pointers for us as an industry to consider being supported by domestic tourism in New Zealand


Here is my list of what I think we should be considering now for our own residents here, whilst we have time to do so. It’s not a perfect list, but it is forming our new company underlying ethic and I believe with all my heart it will work. I hope it does for you too and I wish us all joy in our new journeys as an industry.

Don’t even think about pivoting into domestic tourism if there is a chance you will drop our residents like a hot brick in a year or two if there is a significant start to international tourism again. If you are moving into it domestically- then go with a long term goal of at least five years.

Give the resident of this country a genuine level of respect and show them something brand new. A different viewpoint, a new light, a hidden angle. They deserve it and will repay us by being great future customers and ambassadors to our international markets that in time may flourish again.

Reach high to add value to the experience. In my humble opinion, we have the domestic tourism mindset so wrong. It is not the price tag that is first on their list, but rather the value they will receive and there is a subtle difference.


Some points New Zealander’s can look forward to within new domestic tourism in New Zealand offerings


You now have the chance to experience some of our wonderful product that seemed to be only ever available to international tourists.

Now can be a time to re-discover, re-imagine old haunts, previously not know about twists and turns and tap into the knowledge, experience, and wisdom that was applied to the international tourist.

Now is a time we all get to spend in a country that is spacious and hopefully we never return to those days of crowded car parks with tour busses everywhere, more reasonable visitor numbers, more sustainable business practices.

An opportunity to buy and support local businesses and to keep New Zealand people feeling supported as we support you with some incredible experiences of a high standard.

You have a chance to enjoy but also to have your input into what a new tourism offering can look like in years to come if we are ever able to welcome back visitors.