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ITS: Infrastructure needs, Fire and Ice, threat of OTAs

9 May 2017  By Paul Yandall

(R-L) Mario Santander from American Airlines, Lisa Li from China Travel Services and Darren Wright from Flight Centre at ITS 2017.

Rising infrastructure needs, accommodation shortages, bringing Aussies across the Ditch and the threat of online travel agents were all canvassed in an industry panel in Auckland.
Growth and New Markets was the focus of the first panel discussion at Auckland Airport’s International Travel Summit at the Hilton Hotel with infrastructure high on panellists’ minds.
“Our challenge is to how best to manage increased visitor numbers with our limited tourism infrastructure. We need to expand itinerary choices,” said Lisa Li, managing director of Auckland-based China Travel Services.
“In terms of infrastructure, we are losing business because of a shortage of hotels and higher rates. NZ is becoming an expensive destination.”
Are we ready Chinese new millenneials, asked Li. The government had to work harder to develop infrastructure and increase investment.
“It’s never been cheaper to fly to NZ. We’ve had a massive increase in numbers,” said Darren Wright from Flight Centre Travel Group general manager product, advertising, customer experience and sales.
Flight Centre spent around $1.5m a year marketing NZ as a destination to the Australian market. Its NZ: A Landscape of Fire and Ice campaign focused on NZ’s ski fields and Rotorua.
“We ran the campaign from to NZ from 14 March to 10 April, sales were up 67%, room nights were up 39% customers were up 39%,” said Wright, who is based in Australia. “The idea of this campaign is both short stay and longer stay and that’s where we were seeing an increase in room nights.”
But with increased numbers came inevitable questions, particularly when it came to travelling from Auckland airport to the city.
“Why isn’t there a main highway to get downtown,” asked Mario Santander, NZ country manager for American Airlines.
It was a sentiment echoed by Wright, with a very Australian dig: “Infrastructure to and from the city to the airport is a massive challenge – and a good reisling!”
However, a question from InterCity chief Johnn Thorburn focused minds: “What is your biggest disruption threat?”
Said Wright: “A lot of it has to do with offshore OTAs moving into the Australian market place. When you have international OTAs that play the Australian market place manipulating fares, we find that it’s a race to the bottom.”
For Li, Kaikoura’s earthquake last year had left an impression. NZ’s natural disasters were the greatest threat to her business.
For Santander, low-cost carriers eating into his airline’s business were an issue however American Airlines has released products to catch customers from that part of the market with success.
The one-day International Travel Summit is on today in Auckland.

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