Tourism New Zealand turns to Megan Gale to lure high-spending cyclists

New Zealand is ready to say "Kia ora" to middle-aged Australian men in lycra. Fresh from a government investment of $NZ80 million ($75 million) in 23 cycling trails around the country, Tourism New Zealand has launched a push for Australian cyclists to consider crossing the Ditch for their holiday, whether with their mates or their families.

Tourism New Zealand has chosen model Megan Gale, whose half-Maori mother was born in New Zealand, as the face of a new marketing campaign designed to get more high-spending tourists to the country in the off-peak autumn and spring periods.

Megan Gale crosses the Maramataha Suspension Bridge on The Timber Trail in New Zealand, beckoning Australians to join her.
Megan Gale crosses the Maramataha Suspension Bridge on The Timber Trail in New Zealand, beckoning Australians to join her. 

"We really wanted to show the cycling option as an accessible one: the idea that you don't have to be a Tour de France cyclist to enjoy a holiday, in the same way you can do a walking holiday or a winter holiday on the ski slopes even if you aren't a professional athlete," Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said of the choice of Ms Gale as an ambassador.

Tourism New Zealand data shows more than 70,000 Australians take a ski holiday in the country each year, but only half as many participate in cycling. The goal is to get as many Australians cycling in the country as skiing, on trails that range from easy to advanced.

"Our data says that people who come to pursue special interests, as we call it, tend to stay longer and be the biggest spenders in New Zealand," Mr Bowler said. "Whether that is skiing, cycling, walking or golf, people who travel like that tend to be more valuable visitors to New Zealand."

Hawaii also beckons the sporting

New Zealand is not the only destination keen to attract high-spending Australian sport enthusiasts. Hawaii Tourism Oceania is focusing on the opportunity presented by participatory events like marathons, ocean swims, outrigger canoeing and the famous Ironman triathlon to lure more Australians.

"If people are looking to participate in that sort of event, [ they want] to do it in a destination that is amazing, so they can build a holiday around it as well and bring their friends and families who may not be participants but there is plenty for them to do," Hawaii Tourism Oceania country manager Kerri Anderson said after an annual briefing to travel agents on Wednesday.

She said Hawaii had seen a 44 per cent rise in the number of Australians attending or taking part in sporting events last year.

The number of Australians heading to New Zealand for a holiday rose by 7.8 per cent to 516,016 last year, compared with a 5.2 per cent rise in the number visiting friends and relatives to 531,152.

Mr Bowler said he believed the weaker Australian purchasing power in destinations like the United States due to the lower dollar was leading more to consider New Zealand.

"We have certainly become more competitive as an option," he said. "And in a way I guess a lot of the  competition we face is domestic within Australia. Making sure that we are considered at least as equivalent is important."

The number of Australians visiting Hawaii rose by 7.8 per cent to 333,998 last year despite the drop in the Australian dollar as air capacity rose, but spending per person per day fell by 7.5 per cent in US dollar terms.

"The biggest challenge we have [in marketing Hawaii] is the exchange rate," Ms Anderson said. "The increased price of a holiday to Hawaii is a real concern for people."

But she said while little could be done about the price, Hawaii would look to market its distinct features relative to rival destinations like Bali, Fiji and Queensland to encourage Australians to visit.