20 September 2021

New marketing ideas to lift visitor numbers to Fiordland include permanently expanding daylight hours

Great South is looking for ideas to market the Fiordland region to domestic travellers, including extending daylight hours and looking to Stewart Island for inspiration.

This comes as Department of Conservation data showed a 73 per cent drop in the number of boat passengers visiting Milford Sound in the 2020/2021 season, from 676,000 boat passengers in the season ending in February 2020.

At the other end of Southland, Stewart Island has experienced a boost amid border closures, with visitors to Ulva Island Te Wharawhara up 37 per cent in the 2020/2021 season from 18,000 the season before, and bed nights on the Rakiura Track up 29 per cent to 11,370.

Great South tourism and events general manager Bobbi Brown said part of Stewart Island’s success was the fact that it had been made accessible.

Stewart Island Flights had changed its flight schedule to coincide with the Air New Zealand jet service, which meant people could travel from Auckland to Oban in just three and a half hours, she said.

This, coupled with the island being a “bucket list” experience for many, meant Kiwis had been keen to visit New Zealand’s third island when they couldn’t go overseas, Brown said.

Fiordland had never been marketed to domestic travellers before the borders closed, Brown said – with 75 to 80 per cent of visitors being international.

While Kiwis would never be able to make up these numbers, Great South was preparing to launch a fresh marketing campaign for Fiordland when Aucklanders were allowed to travel again, she said.

The new campaign would highlight the unique environment, that had become “almost spiritual” without the usual international traffic, Brown said, but would also need to be clever to show Kiwis how to get there.

“We’re really trying to build up the Southern gateway through Invercargill Airport.”

Brown also wanted to target Southlanders, encouraging them to make a day trip to Fiordland.

Fiordland Business Association chairman Nathan Benfell said the region needed to be marketed as more than just Milford Sound.

Doubtful Sound was a hidden jewel, about 12 times bigger than Milford Sound, for example, he said.

Visitors seemed to think the only way to get to Fiordland was via Queenstown, and he was keen to encourage Kiwis to travel to Te Anau from Invercargill Airport via the Southern Scenic Route, Benfell said.

Someone from Wellington could jump on a plane at lunchtime and enjoy a picnic on Cathedral Peaks for tea, he said.

The message to visitors would be “leave the hustle and bustle,” Benfell said. “That’s what Stewart Island’s done well.”

Visit Fiordland manager Stu Cordelle said because Te Anau had gone through some really tough times recently with Covid-19 and the loss of international tourism, Great South wanted to up the area’s profile.

They thought about what could be fun and interesting, and thought a lot about Te Anau time, he said.

That was when they liked the idea of staying in daylight savings permanently, Cordelle said.

“We sort of want to keep the time … because there’s lots of daylight hours to do lots of stuff. So, when visitors come to Te Anau, it gives them an extra hour to do things and the fact that our daylight hours are that much longer than nearly anywhere else in New Zealand.

“So, it gives people the chance to do so much more in a day.”

Great South was still working through the logistics of how to go about with the decision and apply it, Cordelle said.

“When this idea came, and it was like hey this is a really good idea and why don’t we run with this … probably something that’ll attract some attention as well.”

The community seemed to have been engaging with the idea well, with a lot of operators into it, Cordelle said.

Published by Stuff.co.nz – 19 September 2021