26 Feb 2015

Road safety 'missed' in tourism campaigns

12:11 pm on 26 February 2015

Millions are being spent on glossy overseas tourism campaigns but very little of it highlights the problems of driving in this country, a tourism academic says.

Tourism New Zealand has run a four-year campaign to attract free independent travellers, pouring millions of dollars into sophisticated campaigns including hosting celebrities from Asia, India and Europe to highlight holidays in New Zealand.

The campaign has been particularly successful in getting Asian and Indian travellers off organised bus tours and into vehicles, to explore New Zealand at their leisure.

However Lincoln University professor of tourism David Simmons said it had also missed vital points.

Professor Simmons said much of the film, literature and social media content about New Zealand glossed over the distances and types of roads travellers would be using.

"People consistently get not the just the distances wrong, but how difficult our driving infrastructure is.

"We don't have many motorways, we have remarkably few divided highways. But what we do have is bendy rather uneven surface roads and one lane bridges," he said.

That required a high degree of competence to drive at the speed and assurance that New Zealanders do, and in that lay a real risk, he said.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said he was already looking at ways the department could deliver the message about what it takes to drive on New Zealand roads.

"Our feeling is that this is something that is going to require a whole lot of different people making an effort to keep our roads safe and we play a role in that.

"Particularly in getting the right message out to international audiences."

Money was already being spent on several initiatives, including an in-flight video on Air New Zealand and a significant online campaign, he said.

However he agreed more could be done, by using the channels of communication which Tourism New Zealand had worked to set up.

That included bringing 'influencers' - people well known in visitors' home markets - to New Zealand, and using social media.

Professor Simmons said tourists were more likely to listen and take in a message delivered by people from their home countries.

"It wouldn't cost any more to add the driving message to the current output from Tourism New Zealand," he said.

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