Could exporting to ex-visitors be NZ’s next billion dollar industry?

Tourism is not just about the experience a visitor has while in New Zealand, the visit can forever change the person. When you return home, you often look to nostalgically recreate memories from that holiday. There is untapped potential to build economic relationships with tourists beyond their visitor spend and lift their lifetime value to New Zealand – this includes them buying more New Zealand product on their return home and/or longer term connections (e.g. studying, migrating, investing).

Over the past three years, I have been part of an exciting project, together with Queenstown Lakes District Council and a range of other partners, that seeks to understand not just what visitors currently add to New Zealand once they return home, but also how we can shift the dial to lift their post-visit lifetime value further.

Already through this project it has been estimated that approximately $600 million of New Zealand’s goods and service exports can be attributed to increased purchases by past visitors. And all this, by accident rather than by design – what if in future through intentional curation of the visitor experience with an eye to post-visit consumption we could turn that $600 million into $1 to $2 billion?

Market research commissioned from OnePicture has shown that one in two visitors to New Zealand from California become regular buyers of our exports.

The market research has also highlighted that tourism could lead to more impactful post-visit relationships with New Zealand, with 1 in 5 have an interest in learning more about investing, working, studying, or migrating, but that we don’t yet do a good job of connecting them with the opportunities when they are here!

Watch this space – thanks to funding from the government’s Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery, some exciting pilots are on the horizon to see whether we can lift the post-visit export sales and other longer-term connections further. This project is a collective initiative led by Queenstown Lakes District Council, and includes members from Economic Development Agencies and Regional Tourism Organisations from across Otago, and Auckland. There are also national organisations engaged in this project (including NZTE, Tourism NZ, NZStory, MBIE).

This is a pretty exciting opportunity for tourism to be a shopfront for other things New Zealand has to offer, and for tourism meccas like Queenstown to be useful to the rest of New Zealand.

I presented a workshop on lifting the lifetime value of visitors to New Zealand at the Economic Development New Zealand conference in Hamilton on October 26/27. A full copy of my presentation can be downloaded here. Please get in touch if you have any questions.