The Future Of Tourism
Destination Norfolk Island has been a registered not for profit organisation on Norfolk since 2011. We have a small membership but we have a large reach with over 7k individual followers on Facebook and Twitter and a well trafficked website that provides a welcoming place for potential visitors, residents and investors to Norfolk through a ‘live’ jobs board where individuals wanting to come to Norfolk can list their resumes and potential employers can contact them directly and a FAQ page. We have run successful tv advertising through regional centres (1million reach) for several months through cooperative fund raising on island and many competitions. (our last competition gave away a locally crafted ukulele worth $450. Our followers are passionate and engaged and love Norfolk as much as we do.
Destination marketing by Norfolk Island will not be fully in the realm of true economic development until it adds two extra arms to its current singular arm of comprehensive outbound advertising through external consultants. For true economic development, a holistic tourism program should be developed and include industry buy-in through a fully industry funded body in the form of an Industry Council model that exists in each state of Australia.
As stated in previous reports “It is a waste of time and money to focus on the “sugar hit” of short term fixes such as advertising and competing on price alone”.
Why have we never been able to grow the New Zealand market in a sustainable way? Why have we never had a busier June, July, August season? How is it that we can always predict with a great degree of certainty when our down periods will be? Because our marketing is predictable and unimaginative. Don’t get us wrong, what NIT does, it does well but nothing has really changed in the way the island is marketed (predominantly gunshot advertising, famils etc) other than the companies contracted to do it for us. There is no investment on island to improve the visitor experience, either by industry or government beyond the regular upkeep and maintenance conducted by Council/Assembly. The KAVHA area and National Parks are a partial exception. Restoration on the buildings and surrounds has been exemplary in a jointly funded program on island and off but the areas are not economically developed and the potential for partner tourism and further site development has not been explored.
Here is one idea for the KAVHA area to be commercialised without losing any of the current feel. Our understanding is that Government House is no longer a Vice Regal appointee residence but houses the representative of the Australian Government who is an employee of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. Perhaps the Administrator could utilise a Quality Row house or rent uptown and this building could be returned to the people and turned into a world class restaurant for visitors to the island and locals to enjoy? It would be a relatively small investment for a huge potential gain, not to mention the marketing yards it would give us. Funds raised would go straight to the KAVHA restoration and development fund and it would provide another source of employment on island. As an added benefit, it would potentially remove the Administrator position from the KAVHA area and protestors could relocate out of the area which is currently seen as a seat for government and hence opposition.
Secondly, the Tourism Bureau is currently operating as an on-island wholesaler, why not expand this role and turn it into a fully functioning wholesaler that has operative arms on and off the island? We see it as working this way. The Tourism Bureau becomes a contact call/centre with a front office for on-island visitor walk-ins. This contact centre would initially consist of 4 operators who would accept inbound calls, conduct surveys and solicit business by following up leads and cold-calling. Lead generation would occur mainly off-island (as we will explain soon) but often people visiting the island want information for a friend or family member or would like to revisit themselves. This information should be captured and followed up on preferably until a conversion occurs.
Operators in the call centre will have software that allows them to accept bookings and payment directly and to answer any queries about the island in a uniform and generic way. The operators are to be trained on how to sell the destination to potential leads and incoming callers and would also be trained as to how to find the right holiday or experience for the client. Call centre KPI’s would apply such as average talk time, number of sales converted, number of surveys conducted, average call wait, average call response time etc. (once again software is available for this function) The call centre could also conduct on-island training seminars or exchanges between themselves and external wholesalers to enhance the sales experience and conversion rates across the board. This partnering shouldn’t be limited as external wholesalers would not be viewed as competitors but as partners to maximise sales conversions.
Currently off island wholesalers are subsidised by NIT to advertise and market the island through print publications. It is expected under this scheme that this would cease and partnerships could be developed to share costs of advertising with local industry. This would be fairer for the on-island operators who currently don’t contribute to marketing efforts but receive bulk business through price reductions of their product which devalues the entire industry and potentially could start a price war. Private enterprise partnerships with wholesalers means that whoever is contributing reaps the rewards. The NIT contact centre wouldn’t actively sell or favour one property/tour or product over another but would find the right fit for the customer through engaging them in a conversation about their needs and desires for their version of a great holiday.
But where are these leads coming from? We envisage a team based in Australia (initially) selling Norfolk Island “on the ground” in the form of a continuous sales roadshow. This team would consist of two passionate people (identified by Industry or Council) in a custom vinyl wrapped vehicle (that positively screams Norfolk Island) crammed with destination marketing materials travelling continuously throughout the main centres and regional areas where possible engaging people in a ‘conversation’ about Norfolk and all it has to offer. We believe that an important reason we are not seeing the increase in visitors that mainland Australia and other Pacific regions are currently experiencing is a simple lack of education and awareness of Norfolk Island amongst the general Australian population. Where is it? What is it all about? What is the history and the cultural aspects? Whilst general traditional advertising is important it doesn’t allow the consumer to ask questions, it is more like throwing paint on a wall and hoping some of it will stick. This way people get to speak with a real person and have a friendly chat about the best little island in the world. They can take away material to read and we can gather information about them. Email addresses, phone numbers, personal information we can feed into our databases and send onto the on-island contact centre to follow up. The roadshow would visit shopping centres, radio stations, wholesalers, retirement villages, street fairs, trade shows and expos, schools, community centres, exhibitions and much more. Imagine how many people could be reached with one single day in a large shopping centre being the “Flight Centre Destination of the month” or something similar. Why aren’t we utilising these wholesaler contacts who have a reach far greater than us and who have shopfronts right across the country? One wholesaler we have already spoken to has invited us to use their City office space to conduct trade evenings where industry comes to us. How good is that! Another wholesaler says they haven’t seen anyone from Norfolk for three years! As you can see the sky is the limit for this type of marketing and the beauty is the costs are controlled by Us. It is anticipated that $100k would allow for set up costs and pay for the marketers for upward of 6 months, potentially longer. But consider the reach and the engagement that we are currently lacking. If this cost was shared by government and industry then a two-year roadshow would be easily possible. Costs would include internet costs, fuel, van and vinyl wrapping, insurance, wages, marketing materials, competitions/promotions. But wait there’s more!
As a bonus, this program would allow every resident on island to follow what the roadshow is up to through social media. It is envisaged that video uploads would occur regularly allowing people on island to see how their island is being sold and to whom. Imagine being able to ‘sit in’ on a video training session for a Flight Centre Call Centre group or watch live what is happening at the shopping centre or trade expo through ‘Facebook Live’. Local operators could be contacted on the spot and engagement could occur in real time. This is an inclusion that is unprecedented and we feel would have the added benefit of helping to unite the local industry around the tourism product. Social media is a great place to tap into followers and engage them with the island and what is happening.
This type of marketing also lends itself very well to the niche markets we have been trying to crack. Food festival coming up? The roadshow can focus on foodie marketing for the leadup to the November festival ensuring marketing dollars are focussed on exactly where they are needed. Same applies to soft adventure, sports, fishing, history, eco et al. If there is a niche then the roadshow can expend its energies on that area of potential. Those leads would become an important tool to fill up airplane seats and sell festival tickets. As outlined in the Brief for Incoming GM this type of marketing has a huge potential for growth if only we could control who hears our message and when. This is the perfect way to achieve that. Only after engaging with people can you find out their interests and motivations for travel. All information that is essential for follow up sales work.
How do we reinvest in the visitor experience?
Firstly, we need to find out what they want. The roadshow and the contact centre is a great way to achieve this as people love to talk about themselves and consequently our future investment can be informed by their past experiences. By actively engaging with our customers in an unprecedented way we can find out this type of information to ensure money is spent in all of the right places. The NIT contact centre would also be conducting surveys of people who have visited the island and gain invaluable knowledge from their experiences and improvements they might suggest. What a great addition to our outgoing passenger feedback cards.
Where is the money coming from? Reinvestment by government and local industry is the only answer. This is how it happens elsewhere and destinations like Lord Howe Island are exceeding their tourism advertising spend with local enhancement and upgrades spending (all under the tourism budget).
Lord Howe Island has a board that administers the island and takes on the functions of a regional council. Up to 75% of the boards overall funding comes from Australian grants and the rest is raised from the community. The board gives the island tourism body $100 000 per year for tourism marketing and another $150 000 comes from Destination New South Wales and other sources. The board states in their annual report that the bulk of tourism funding (up to 900 000 dollars) is for on island projects and infrastructure to support the tourism sector and offer up to date , modern and reliable services to and from the island. Lord Howe has a separate governance structure to Norfolk Island but there are many similarities and it can give us an idea of broad structural funding arrangements in Australia.
Other destinations recognise the need for reinvestment to keep the visitor experience fresh and engaging. We all know that expectations change with the times and it is imperative that it must be identified as an area of spending importance. Clean water, airport shopping, greening of shopping districts, proper signage, power generation, tours and accommodation assistance and more are all areas that can be improved upon. Are they linked with tourism? Of course they are, along with rubbish and waste recycling and solar inputs. The new tourist wants to leave a smaller carbon footprint and it is up to destinations to accommodate this changing cognisance.
How do we unite private enterprise?
Firstly it should be recognised that every individual on this island is responsible for marketing it, selling it and maintaining it. We all have a responsibility to the greater whole. Too long individual interests have prevailed and a climate of fear and closed competition has been the norm. The two main bodies representing business on island have failed to unite it as a whole due to disparate memberships and an apathy towards doing so. A new overarching organisation needs to be established and through a holistic membership ideology become a true representative to every person on Norfolk with relation to tourism. Everybody from the public servant to the panel beater should be contributing in one way or another to the tourism product. Until this occurs Norfolk will continue its sporadic marketing efforts with little to no buy in from residents.
The problems we have experienced on Norfolk Island in the past stem from disunity, distrust (of government and competitors) and a mindset of top down governmental funding. A 2008 Report for Norfolk Island from GLOBAL TOURISM AND LEISURE PTY. LTD. states:
"In spite of this, however, there appears to be significant dislocation within the tourism industry and disengagement by many participants in the general direction and affairs of the industry. This situation is represented by many reports of disunity and lack of cooperation within the industry received during the consultation process and observed during various visits. Furthermore, the tourism industry has developed a strong dependence upon government to accept and undertake almost total responsibility for its direction and future". 2008 Norfolk Island.
If it was up to us every person that gets on a plane leaving the island would be asked to spread the Norfolk message given a t-shirt and a cap and sent out into the world to represent us. We all know word of mouth is our greatest asset but we need to put some money where our mouths are too. People / businesses will contribute willingly if they see a benefit to themselves. After all we are all driven by our own self interests in the end, and this way we will all feel like we have a stake in every hard-won sale to a potential visitor to Norfolk as it was all our dollars that made it possible.
Lastly, we would like to address the need for unity on the island for the sake of the tourism product. DNI sees no harm in individuals or groups pushing their message to government but we feel that to push a political message on the tourist is harmful and potentially disengages the tourist from what is beautiful and positive about the island. Over 90% of our visitors in August were from Australia. If they even sense or smell an anti-Australia sentiment on island then we as an island have lost. It may not be the intention of the Elders or Norfolk Democracy movement to do this but when an Australian sees that Norfolk wants to be part of NZ in the SMH that is harmful to us as a destination for chiefly Australian tourists. Council and Industry need to take a stronger leadership role to prevent this from happening and delivering the apolitical message loud and clear that Norfolk is PRO AUSTRALIA. Saying you love Australia but hate their government doesn’t help. DNI feels that the tourist needn’t be involved at all in this process and that to try and sway public opinion by trying to convince them to support a cause is harmful and damaging to the tourism product.
By setting performance standards industry and government can keep the message ‘clean’ and give the tourists an uncontroversial experience. What are they telling their friends? What is their feeling about a place? It all comes back to all of us to keep it friendly and positive.
Tourism Roadshow Norfolk Tourism Contact Centre (Aust) (inbound/Outbound)
Customer Feedback Surveys On Island Visitor Experience
And visitor cards (improvements/socialmedia)
Destination Norfolk Island acknowledges the work done by NIT to date under difficult circumstances. Securing Ray Martin as ambassador and additional funding for Unique Tourism Collection to advertise the island were terrific coups for the body. Our group doesn’t see the need to seek extra funding from the Australian government until Industry steps up and fills the financial void that exists. We believe that only then will government consider augmenting the budget as it will be obvious that the money will not be spent just doing the same things we have always done expecting a different result. This expanded strategy will be a good place to build a united tourism body that will bring together the necessary ‘arms’ of off island promotion and conversation engagement, On island conversion and follow-up and rebuilding island infrastructure and visitor experience. This strategy will unite the community behind our only industry and finally unite industry and government in a tourism partnership that will be a healthy base for future economic development.