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25 Nov, 2003

WTM 2003 Dispatch 5: In Pursuit Of Interactive Travellers

Buried deep in Tourism New Zealand’s media kit at the WTM 2003 was this research study on Interactive Travellers, the people considered most likely to visit a country located at the far end of the travel chain.

– From the World Travel Market 2003 in London

Fifth in a series of dispatches taking an in-depth look at the issues, policies, strategies and trends that emerged at one of the world’s largest travel trade shows.



This is an edited version of a significant research study conducted by Tourism New Zealand to identify and attract a small but critical niche-market.


New Zealand’s long term tourism goals were identified in the National Tourism Strategy 2010, which was developed in March 2001 by the Tourism Strategy Group – a joint industry and government initiative. The goals of the strategy are:

1. Provide a world class, sustainable visitor experience. New Zealand aims to offer a high quality visitor experience that can be maintained in the long term.

2. Develop a compelling brand. New Zealand should be desired and sought after. It seeks to stand out in the holiday market as somewhere wonderfully different.

3. Match brand promise and product delivery. New Zealand needs to make sure that visitors get what they came for, because their word of mouth recommendation is invaluable.

4. Optimise yield, seasonality and regional spread. Ideally, New Zealand would like to establish and maintain a consistent flow of visitors to every region, throughout the year.

Why does New Zealand need a defined target market?

At the most basic level, it could be argued New Zealand only needs to market to those who can afford to get here. But there were four good reasons to narrow this very large group down to a more defined target market.

1. FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS: New Zealand has a limited budget for promotion to would-be visitors. The bigger the target, the further it has to spread its budget and the less impact it makes. Tourism New Zealand decided that its marketing will be more effective if it can make a bigger impact with a smaller target.

2. FINITE RESOURCES: New Zealand can’t increase the amount of natural tourism assets it has. Rather than trying to simply increase the volume of visitors, it needs to focus its messages on the people who most appreciate what NZ has, and can help to maintain a high quality visitor experience.

3. PROPOSITION MATCH: As a place to have a holiday, New Zealand is more attractive or relevant to some people than others. It’s logical to attract the visitors who have the greatest chance of being highly satisfied. They’ll go home and tell their friends.

4. STRATEGY 2010: New Zealand has clearly defined long term goals for tourism that will be achieved more readily if it focuses on a particular group of travellers.

HOW WAS THIS TARGET MARKET DEFINED: Tourism New Zealand compared New Zealand’s proposition (what the country offers visitors) and the needs of the tourism industry with what travellers want, and how they rate the holiday experience in NZ.

NEW ZEALAND’S REQUIREMENTS: New Zealand’s tourism strategy, which involved input from every sector of New Zealand’s tourism industry, points to the need to offer a world-class, sustainable visitor experience. In the long term, it was felt that tourism in NZ must be profitable for those who work in it, must preserve the natural assets that it is famous for and must sit comfortably with local people and communities.

MOTIVATIONS FOR TRAVEL: Regardless of where they come from, when people travel they have a variety of needs. There needs come in different quantities for different travellers. Research has shown that New Zealand delivers exceedingly well to those with an energising need, so ideally it needs to attract travellers who seek an energising experience.

MARKETING CONSIDERATIONS: There are some important considerations when defining the ideal visitor :-

  • Word of mouth works very well. If a traveller is highly satisfied, they recommend the destination to their friends and family;
  • Converting preference to intention is NZ’s greatest marketing challenge. Research suggests that more than 80% of people who have a preference for travel to NZ, never get around to it. It was felt that Tourism NZ needed to focus on reducing that drop-off;
  • It’s important to have a distinctive brand so that consumers perceive the NZ travel promise to be different and more desirable;
  • There’s a core of resilient people who aren’t put off travel by world and economic events;


A look at what travellers are doing in New Zealand makes it easier to understand NZ’s promise or proposition:

  • Visitors want to interact with the landscape and culture;
  • Visitors to New Zealand consume a broad range of activities and high levels of nature/adventure based products;
  • Country of origin doesn’t seem to matter – all visitors consume similar products;
  • Travel style, life stage and budget are things that determine consumption – there are more similarities than differences between countries of origin.

So, knowing all this, who is NZ’s target market?

After weighing up all these factors, Tourism New Zealand defined the ideal visitor, and target market, as the ‘Interactive Traveller’.

Interactive Travellers (ITs) are people who: Are regular international travellers; Consume a wide range of tourism products and services; Seek out new experiences that involve interacting with nature, social and cultural environments; Respect the environment, culture and values of others; Are considered leaders by their peers; Don’t mind planning and booking holidays directly; Prefer authentic products and experiences; Are health conscious and like to ‘connect’ with others; Enjoy outdoor activity; Are sociable and like to learn; Have high levels of disposable income.

How does one recognise an Interactive Traveller?

ITs come from a range of countries around the world. They are more likely to fall into one of two age groups – 25-34 or 50-64. Younger ITs probably haven’t had children yet, while older ITs are likely to be ‘empty nesters’ (their children have left home). Both groups are more likely to have discretionary income available to spend on travel.

Research into the habits and characteristics of ITs showed that they are more likely to:

  • Read newspapers and magazines. They make a point of staying informed following business news, current affairs and travel publications.
  • Research travel destinations thoroughly. ITs like to know about where they’re going and what they can do when they get there. They research destinations using the internet, guide books, word of mouth and travel agents.
  • Go to the cinema, theatre, galleries and museums. They pursue culture at home and when they’re away on holiday. They appreciate both contemporary and historical cultural experiences.
  • Be high users of technology. ITs have fully embraced computers, the Internet, digital cameras, pay TV and other forms of lifestyle information technology.
  • Aim to be healthy. Interactive Traveller’,’ are more likely to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods. Some of them also prefer organic foods.
  • Entertain at home. They enjoy cooking and socialising with friends at all times of the year. Travel is a likely topic of conversation.
  • Have liberal attitudes. ITs have open minds. They’re tolerant of beliefs that don’t match their own, and they’re prepared to listen to new ideas.
  • Take risks. Challenging situations, both mental and physical, appeal to ITs. They enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something they haven’t done before.
  • Have a high disposable income. ITs have enough money to travel regularly and purchase high-value travel experiences. They’re also willing to pay more for experiences that are authentic or exclusive.
  • Enjoy fine cuisine and wine. Food and wine adds essential flavour to travel, as far as the Interactive Traveller is concerned. They expect hospitality of an international standard, but they also want to try authentic local delicacies and cooking styles.
  • Have influence in their peer group. ITs share travel stories, both at home and while they’re travelling. They follow word of mouth recommendations from people they respect, and they share their own travel experiences.

It’s important to remember that while ITs enjoy these things, they are not primary motivations for travel to NZ. Their key reason to visit NZ is to interact with the landscape. To understand the behaviours of ITs so that it can target messages to them more effectively and better respond to their needs, Tourism New Zealand researched their attitudes, lifestyles and media habits.

Attitudes and behaviours around the world

The attitudinal and behavioural research looked at three significant markets – USA, Australia and UK.

Compared with the general population, ITs from USA, UK and Australia are more likely to: Use computers and other forms of information technology; Take risks; Drink wine with their meals; Drink premium beer; Buy organic or additive-free food; Give to charities; Entertain spontaneously and have a full social life; Enjoy physical activity; Organise holidays on behalf of family and friends


Compared with the general population, ITs from USA, UK and Australia are more likely to: Access the internet every day; Go to the cinema; Subscribe to pay TV; Watch Discovery Channel; Read newspapers every day; Read Sunday supplements; Read educational magazines, such as National Geographic; Read specialised ‘weekend’ magazines; Be light TV viewers (up to 2 hours a day); Be light radio listeners (up to 2 hours a day). ITs also are big consumers of wine and eat out regularly.


Compared with the general population, ITs from USA, UK and Australia are more likely to spend a nonwork day exercising at the gym, shopping at their favourite department store and meeting friends for lunch at a cafe. They’re also more likely to spend an afternoon at a gallery, then have a quick dinner at a restaurant before catching a movie.

ITs are also more likely to: Read books; Go to the beach; Have weekends away; Buy music; Buy fresh flowers; Participate in a short course or seminar. ITs enjoy meeting friends for lunch.

Why do they choose New Zealand?

ITs decide to visit New Zealand primarily for the scenery and natural wonders. Secondly, they come to experience the culture and history. Further down the list are physical activities and wildlife experiences.

On the basis of scenery and natural wonders, ITs will choose NZ over other destinations. However on the basis of history and culture, NZ might get ‘bumped’ by other destinations.

When planning their itineraries, ITs are likely to include activities that allow them to experience the icons that make NZ unique. For example, visiting a fiord or hiking a track in a national park. They may also include activities that involve culture or history, such as visiting; a marae to learn about traditional Maori life. Other activities linked to personal interests will be added as finishing touches.

What do they do in NZ?

Sixty percent of ITs prefer to travel around NZ at a relaxed pace. They like to travel from place to place, seeing and doing things in three or tom regions. On average, they participate in 40% more activities than travellers in general.

Activities that offer beautiful scenery. a friendly guide, interaction, education, uniqueness and a genuine emotional connection (authentic) are more appealing. Certain individual products are particularly attractive to ITs. These activities tend to showcase NZ’s scenic beauty. Sea kayaking, scenic flights over glaciers and hiking through areas of spectacular beauty are some of their favourite experiences.

ITs especially like the more personal and exclusive types of accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels and luxury lodges.

What do they look for when choosing an activity?

Across different types of activities, there are a number of key elements that ITs look for when choosing an activity, apart from the activity itself (e.g. a Jetboat ride).

FABULOUS SETTING: Naturally beautiful settings are always more popular. “I wanted to see a bit of the wilderness. I wasn’t so much interested in shooting down the river on a jet boat, I wanted to see a bit of the country and learn about the area” (American tourist explains why the setting is important, not just the activity, 2002).

REAL KIWI OPERATOR: ITs like to mix with locals ‘Real’ means an operator who is warm, friendly, enthusiastic, and passionate about the activity and the environment.

FEELING PART OF THE EXPERIENCE: There is a growing desire for ITs to interact with the activity Participation is better than watching.

UNIQUENESS: ITs want something they haven’t experienced or seen before. they look for a unique ‘New Zealand’ element to the experience.

LESS IS MORE: Being part of a flock is not the ITs idea of fun. Small groups or solo experiences make them feel like the experience is special

LEARNING SOMETHING: ITs like to absorb information about the setting, wildlife or historical context of the activity. However, when it comes to delivering the experience, it is important to gauge the level of interest so that the right amount of information is provided.

SAFETY: ITs need to be assured that the activity is safe. Safety is interpreted by way of the activity having modern equipment, up to date facilities and appropriate safety regulations and accreditation. A good safety briefing by the operator also adds to a visitor’s feeling of safety.

CHOICE IN LEVEL OF EXERTION OR THRILL: When there’s a choice in duration or level of ‘thrill’, the Interactive Traveller is more likely to be interested.

What do they look for when choosing accommodation? Across the different types of accommodation the things that are important to visitors are: Friendly and helpful staff; Decor of rooms; Information provided on things to see and do, and; Value for money.

At the end of the holiday, how does New Zealand rate?

The research revealed that visitors to New Zealand are generally very satisfied with their holiday (94% of visitors rated their holiday as either ‘superb’ or ‘very good’). However, ITs are even more satisfied than all travellers (65% of ITs rated New Zealand as superb compared to 51% of all travellers).

ITs are also more likely to have expectations of their New Zealand holiday exceeded (78% of ITs rated New Zealand as exceeding their expectations, 68% of all travellers rated New Zealand as exceeding their expectations). These findings demonstrate that New Zealand better delivers to the needs of ITs than travellers in general. Which is important in terms of creating positive word of mouth referral.

Here are same key findings:

  • Activities that have the highest satisfaction with ITs are those that showcase New Zealand’s unique scenic beauty.
  • Opportunities exist to better deliver individual products to meet Interactive Traveller needs and wants – especially activities that are high in importance; to the overall holiday experience and where satisfaction with those activities can be improved.
  • Core product (accommodation and transport) has less impact on a visitor’s overall satisfaction with their holiday than activity product does. They are more of a functional requirement. However, if a visitor has a poor experience with core product, their overall satisfaction with the holiday is undermined.
  • Bed and breakfasts and boutique luxury accommodation are seen as key strengths of New Zealand’s core product offering. These places are seen as more than ‘a bed for the night’ by offering a more personal experience.
  • Budget and mid level hotel/motel accommodation are also important to an Interactive Traveller’s holiday, however, there is definitely room for improvement in delivering these types of accommodation.


ITs typically exhibit short planning times with 42% having less than 6 months between the actual holiday and first considering it as a possible holiday destination (36% having a 6-12 month lag). ITs do much of their information gathering on the web and find on-line information (including travel agents’ websites, airlines’ websites, tourist information centres’ websites and other websites) most helpful in their choice of a holiday destination. However, word-of-mouth from friends and relations is still the most important single source.


After deciding on the holiday destination but before leaving home, ITs plan their holiday by collecting information about the places to go, places to stay, how to get around, and things to see and do. They roughly plan their itinerary by making some firm decisions, which result in certain advance bookings. However, some of the holiday planning is left until arrival at the destination. ITs still find internet based information sources relatively more important than other sources in planning their holiday. Nevertheless, travel books and guide books, maps and advice from friends and relations are more important single sources in helping them decide in advance about places to visit, places to stay, how to get around and things to see and do. In fact, travel guides and travel books increase in importance and usage during the planning stage (vs. during the process of choosing the holiday destination).

What sort of information do they collect about their chosen destination before they travel?

ITs generally collect lots of different types of information before departure on activity products (i.e. places to go and things to see and do), as opposed to places to stay and how to get around. For ITs who enjoy learning about and visualising the holiday destination, collecting information is considered a key part of the holiday experience. This process also helps ensure the best holiday experience and reduces any chance of disappointment.

What decisions do they make before they travel?

ITs tend to make more firm decisions about accommodation and transport, but are more flexible about activity products and leaving the details relatively open until they get to the holiday destination. This is in contrast with the amount of information collected about the holiday destination, where more information is collected on activities. As the information gathered highlights key attractions of the holiday destination, travellers are able to identify the key “big adventures” that interest them and plan their itinerary around these. Hence, the icons of the holiday destination become important drivers of location and accommodation choice.

ITs believe that making some firm decisions before going on holiday would eliminate stress. This would also mean being able to make the most of their time at the destination, rather than spending holiday time planning and deciding. However, of those who do not make any firm decisions before departure, the majority feel confident or prefer to look around when they arrive.

What do the ITs book and why or why not?

The amount of advance booking done by ITs closely reflects the extent to which firm decisions are made for their holiday. In light of this, more advance bookings are made for accommodation and transport, mainly for re-assurance that they will have somewhere to stay and be able to get where they want. These decisions and bookings are driven by the things to see and do in the region.

In terms of who they book with, Travel Agents have an important role in holiday bookings, primarily for accommodation and transport and some activities. ITs state a preference for using the internet rather than visiting their travel agent in person or talking to them over the phone. Thirty-seven percent would make bookings as part of a pre-paid package mainly through Travel Agents. Popular packages purchased by ITs generally include airfares, accommodation and some holiday activities. ITs also book large proportions of their holiday activities directly via other websites, where tourism service operator sites are used.

What happens after arrival?

ITs leave most of the decision-making and bookings for activity products until after arrival. They typically rely on word-of-mouth from friends and relations and advice from local people. The Visitor Information Network (iSite) and well equipped accommodation providers are valuable sources of information for travellers. ITs require far more information on activity products compared to accommodation and transport before departure. However, more firm decisions are made on accommodation and transport compared to activity products before departure.


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