Gregg Wafelbakker, General Manager, Tourism of New Zealand

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TMS. Give a brief overview of your background and your role in the organisation?

Gregg Wafelbakker. I’m the General Manager Asia for Tourism New Zealand, based in Singapore.

TMS. New Zealand is known for its mountains, lakes and natural beauty and is a multi-cultural nation with various influences due to its diversity. What are your recommendations in terms of off-beat experiences that one can enjoy in New Zealand?

Gregg Wafelbakker. New Zealand is full of incredible diversity both on and off-beat. I am from the West Coast of the South Island, which does boast incredible natural beauty both in landscapes and wildlife. My recommendation to visitors is to spend as much time as possible in New Zealand to maximise the richness of experience through our people and our place.

TMS How have tourism arrivals to New Zealand been during 2022? What are the expectations for the upcoming year?

Gregg Wafelbakker. We are starting to see the return of visitor numbers and while numbers are promising – at around 52% of pre covid levels, we are expecting the return of visitation to be gradual.

Tourism New Zealand is pushing hard to support tourism recovery.
Most visitors are naturally coming Australia, our biggest and closest market.
We are also seeing strong visitation from the USA supported by increasing airline capacity.
While naturally, the first people visiting were those visiting family and friends, Industry is reporting a range of types of travellers returning and making bookings from youth to luxury.
Air capacity has recovered to about 75% of pre-COVID for the summer period, and demand for travel to New Zealand means we think there is a good opportunity for the sector.

TMS. How many visitors from India travel to New Zealand every year and what is the expected percentage growth in the coming year?

Gregg Wafelbakker. India is a priority emerging market for New Zealand, before COVID-19 the market was demonstrating strong growth, with holiday arrivals doubling between 2015 and 2019. As of March 2020 (before international borders were closed), the total YE arrivals from India into New Zealand was 67,395 with holiday visitors contributing to 40% of total arrivals. The average length of stay of an average Indian visitor was 12 days. The Indian market has a preference to travel in New Zealand’s autumn and spring seasons, making it important for offsetting seasonality in New Zealand. Current India arrivals are recovering gradually and people coming to New Zealand are predominantly those Visiting Friends and Relatives vs holiday arrivals. India is an emerging market for New Zealand, and one that has potential to grow. We know that Indian travellers tend to head overseas in what is usually a quieter time for tourism businesses in New Zealand, and visit for a longer period of time. While it’s a small market at the moment, our research shows that of the people who have New Zealand on their travel wish-list, 64% of them rank New Zealand first on that list and they want to experience a wide range of activities when they eventually do come.

TMS. How high is the frequency of repeat visitor traffic to New Zealand?

Gregg Wafelbakker. Visitors from our closest and largest visitor market, Australia, visit New Zealand on average four times in their lifetime. Our visitors from long-haul markets tend to come for a longer period but may only visit once in their lifetime.

TMS. What are the various innovative MICE opportunities in New Zealand for companies planning an incentive or a conference?

Gregg Wafelbakker. For those who seek more from their next business event, New Zealand has it all – breath taking scenery, unique cultural experiences, world-class venues and rewarding incentive programmes. With three new cutting-edge convention centres – Te Pae Christchurch now open, Takina Wellington on track to open in 2023, and the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland scheduled for completion in 2025 – New Zealand is providing a conference offering like never before. Alongside the new infrastructure, there’s new incentive options that range from getting out in nature with new guided walks and helifly fishing tours in Queenstown, to the interactive All Blacks Experience and fabulous film effects experience with Workshop Unleashed in Auckland.

TMS. How are you strengthening MICE profile further on the global stage by hosting MICE events? Please share with us some of the key events hosted in New Zealand recently?

Gregg Wafelbakker. Tourism New Zealand’s dedicated Business Events team supports bids for events that will enrich New Zealand, bringing international visitors to the country but also knowledge, networking opportunities and positive legacies for New Zealanders. In October New Zealand hosted the inaugural Oceania 2035 Agri-Food-Tech Summit. This month it will host the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport in Auckland, (14-17 November 2022) which will be the largest edition of the event yet. The pipeline of future events business is strong, with New Zealand recently securing conferences through to 2026, including the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG) Conference at Te Pae Christchurch in 2026, and the Federation of Asia Oceania Pest Management Associations (FAOPMA) – Pest Summit Conference at the NZICC in 2026.

TMS. Is there an author or a quote you live by…either in business or your personal life – something that really resonates with you?

Gregg Wafelbakker. I love this Maori Whakatauki (proverb)
Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini
“My strength is not from me alone, but from many”

TMS. Lastly, what is your message to the industry?

Gregg Wafelbakker. Indian visitors are a vital part of our tourism ecosystem. We have come through some difficult times but together the future is bright. Thank you for your on-going support.