Regional marketing heads talk tourism growth

Tourism marketing executives from 14 Pacific island countries met in Rarotonga, Cook Islands to discuss ways to increase visitors numbers to the South Pacific region.

The 4th Regional Marketing Meeting discussed a number of initiatives targeting tourism growth including the annual tourism marketing event South Pacific Tourism Exchange (SPTE); a new brand to market the region globally; and a regional marketing plan for endorsement by the meeting.

The annual meeting of marketing executives has been organised by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the region’s peak tourism development and marketing body, since 2013 when it was first held in Samoa.

“This is an important forum that allows the heads of national tourism marketing offices from Pacific island countries to come together to share ideas on how to jointly market the South Pacific as a whole. Visitors spending more time in the region as opposed to one country only means more benefits for everyone,” said Sonja Hunter, chief executive officer of Samoa Tourism Authority and chairperson of the SPTO board.

The marketing delegates discussed the future of the South Pacific Tourism Exchange (SPTE) which connects Pacific island sellers with international travel buyers around key Australasian tourism marketing events. The first SPTE was held in Auckland in 2014 before TRENZ (New Zealand’s national tourism marketing event), followed by events in Melbourne (2015) and Gold Coast (2016) which came after the Australian Tourism Event (ATE). SPTE will next be held in Sydney 19-20 May 2017 post ATE 2017.

Going forward, the meeting agreed that SPTO develop a three-year strategy for the future direction of SPTE.

A new brand that has been developed to market South Pacific tourism globally was presented and endorsed at the meeting, ahead of it being presented to SPTO’s board of directors and tourism ministers over the next days for their final endorsements prior to a full roll-out. SPTO’s current brand dates back to the 1980s.

“It’s a timely new brand for the region that draws on Pacific islands cultural elements as we step up our regional marketing efforts,” said Jo Tuamoto, chief executive officer of Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau. “It will help boost the global profile of South Pacific Tourism.”

The meeting also discussed and endorsed a regional marketing plan to be presented to the SPTO board and ministers. It focuses on increasing total visitor arrivals by 3.4% in 2017; rolling out the new South Pacific brand in all target markets; improving the knowledge base of the travel trade to sell the South Pacific; and increasing the region’s global visibility via digital media.

While the total visitor arrivals to the South Pacific has grown from 1.6m in 2011 to 1.9m in 2015, the South Pacific region still only accounts for 0.16% in global tourism arrivals with room for growth.

The major source markets for the region are Australia and New Zealand, which account for 50%, while Europe, United States, China and Japan account for 49%. The remaining 1% come from other source markets.


Photo: Tourists arrive in Tonga on a cruise ship