The Tourist Trap
Tourism has always been the lifeblood of the Queenstown Lakes District providing countless benefits to the local economy, surrounding communities and related industries. However, it also placed considerable strain across these areas due to the sheer volume of visitors that wasn't showing any signs of slowing down.
Then COVID-19 came along. The lack of overseas visitors the country saw due to its closed boarders had significant impact on the industry. In just one year $15.6b had been lost to the New Zealand economy, including a drop of $1.7b in GST to the government from international visitors - source
On the flip side, it also created a unique opportunity to pause and reflect on the negative impacts that high-volume tourism has had on both the environment and communities alike. This reflection is a global industry trend, which has been keeping Regional Tourism Organisations (RTO’s) busy juggling between supporting the local visitor economy whilst rethinking more sustainable avenues for a better tourism future.
A Better Future.
In order to rapidly implement change the industry as a whole is reevaluating how their destinations are managed. Lake Wānaka Tourism in particular has been at the forefront of change long before the pandemic began thanks to local initiatives like the WAO Summit, which has provided the region with a head start when it comes to introducing progressive sustainability measures such as regenerative tourism, a relatively new concept that now sits at the forefront of every Regional Tourism Operators to do list.
Lake Wānaka Tourism has since partnered with neighbouring Destination Queenstown and the Queenstown Lakes District Council to develop their Destination Management Plan that once completed will help guide the region towards acting on its overall vision for a better tourism future. Once economic and cultural analysis can be combined with regional and community input, a master plan can be developed, which effectively becomes a strategic roadmap for progressive, long lasting change within the industry.
A Digital Discussion
Lake Wānaka Tourism understood that their digital channels would play a significant role in communicating with visitors, local businesses and the community alike. Having just completed a deep dive into their brand values and strategic priorities, it was a great time to come aboard and help them take action on a newfound value proposition, making a transition online from what they were marketing to how they’re marketing.
The process began with a Discovery, which immediately picked up on the strengths and weaknesses of their current communication and channel strategies. These opportunities to course correct would then be addressed over a series of programmes specifically focused around improving their website, content messaging and overall customer journey. Within each programme being implemented, there was also a focus on strengthening the organisation from within, developing LWT’s capability to own and deliver the programme themselves moving forward.
As these outcomes continue to evolve, it has been exciting for both LWT and Dream Config to witness the strategic elements begin to take hold and gain momentum as we move closer towards the industry tipping point. Underneath it all is a clearer vision and comprehensive series of digital frameworks that when executed properly can enable nimble teams to take massive action.
Given these learnings, here are a few takeaways that organisations similar to LWT can utilise:
1. Create a strong sense of brand identity - establishing clear mission, vision and values, objectives/KPI’s
2. Adopt data-driven decision making - using factual analytics and audience behaviours
3. Invest in a comprehensive digital strategy - developing clear roadmap that can deliver on the strategic priorities, vs a siloed approach
4. Build internal capability - retaining intellectual property within wherever possible is key as the people themselves come and go
5. Adopt systems - utilising workflow and automation tools helps organise and implement change at scale