South America is copying New Zealand’s tourism strategies and is fast becoming one of its biggest competitors in adventure tourism.
Ten New Zealand adventure tourism operators experienced the rising destination first hand at the 2008 Adventure Travel World Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and were surprised at how fast the competition was learning.
‘‘We knew they were there, but we didn’t realise to what extent they were evolving,” skydiving company NZONE’s Derek Melnick said.
South America’s proximity to the United States, New Zealand’s third biggest tourism market, made South American destinations viable alternatives to New Zealand, Mr Melnick said.
‘‘Many of them have the same natural resources and more than New Zealand has got. Where they have fallen down to date is they just have not been that organised.”
But that was changing. Mr Melnick said Peru’s attitude to expanding its tourism beyond Machu Picchu used similar concepts and language to Tourism New Zealand’s market development and strategies.
He said travellers were increasingly looking for life-changing experiences over and above scenery and entertainment.
‘‘We do a good job of delivering that at the moment, but the long story is we cannot rest on our laurels.”
The industry trip, sponsored by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Tourism Industry Association, was aimed at ‘‘benchmarking” how New Zealand compared with the world in the adventure tourism sector.
The association’s adventure tourism sector manager, Geoff Ensor, said the summit had highlighted how well-respected New Zealand was in adventure tourism, and it illustrated that it had fastlearning competitors.
New Zealand was acknowledged regularly during the five-day conference as a leading light in tourism, and particularly adventure tourism, but other countries and tourism operators were cottoning on to the way the industry did things.
‘‘They are watching us and complacency is not an option,” Mr Ensor said.
Incorporating a whole-experience ethos to tourism would differentiate New Zealand and help hold the market edge, which had been carved out on safety and innovation.
Guided walking company Hiking New Zealand owner Anne Murphy said South America was lagging New Zealand in tourism infrastructure, but had distinct marketing strategies that could poach tourists from New Zealand in time.