Travel agent Lynne Bogue offers some valuable advice on how to sell New Zealand to your clients.
Long-awaited trip to New Zealand
Clients who book to go to New Zealand have typically been thinking about it for a long time. They will have read about it, seen pictures and dreamed of going. But it always seems just such a long way to go, so it takes people a while to get around to it.
There’s no two ways about it – New Zealand is a long way. Those extra three hours farther than Australia are a killer. But don’t let your clients be put off. It’s worth it, they just need the help and expertise of a travel agent to plan their trip properly. It’s bonkers to go straight there.
I recommend people break the journey – twice if they have the time, but at least either on the way out, or the way back. You have to make it clear to clients that if they’re going for three weeks, a week is going to be spent travelling.
It’s particularly important that retirement-age travellers – and they make up the majority of my New Zealand clientele – take decent breaks between long flights, otherwise they won’t be able to enjoy their holiday. Happily, they’re also the group who are less restricted by time, so they can take a month or three weeks.
One of the easiest stops is Singapore. With Singapore Airlines, they can fly into Auckland and then straight out of Christchurch, which fits with what 99% of clients want from their New Zealand itinerary.
I sell more Qantas flights than anything else, and this works well if people are stopping on the outward and return journey. They can take three days or so in Sydney one way, and Melbourne the other. I flew with Air New Zealand eight years ago, and then again this year, and the improvement in the aircraft, staff and service on board was incredible. Premium economy on its Boeing 777s is absolutely fantastic.
It’s worth noting that if clients fly through Los Angeles, they will need to fill out an Esta and clear immigration, which is a bit of a pain if they’re just transiting and not stopping off in the US.
New Zealand used to be cheap, but the current exchange rate means it isn’t at the moment. Hotels can be quite expensive. However, the quality of accommodation is excellent – it really has some of the highest standards in the world. And the variety is huge, too.
Before clients visit, they often have a misconception that B&Bs in New Zealand are the same as ones here, and are a bit surprised by the cost. But the ones in New Zealand are worlds apart from those in the UK. In New Zealand you find absolutely beautiful properties run by husband and wife teams, with breakfasts to die for, which more than justify their cost.
Motels are cheaper but they are brilliant too, with full kitchenettes that make things very convenient for families. Camper vans are another option and are a really fun way of getting around. We went to the Maui depot in Christchurch, and even though the vans aren’t cheap, they’re fabulous – very modern, with beds above your head. They’re ideal for younger travellers.
There are classic hotels too, and then at the very top end of the market, there are the lodges, which are out of this world. In some destinations, you want to keep accommodation on a par – five-star clients stay five-star all the way. Not in New Zealand – it’s fun to mix and match. I wouldn’t bypass an off-the-beaten-track area just because there wasn’t a five-star hotel.
However, you need an agent’s knowledge of what’s on offer to get the right mix.
Visitors always want to see everything – and that’s just not possible in two weeks. But with three weeks to a month, you can fit the majority in. If people don’t want to drive, there are some great escorted tours from the likes of Titan Travel and Collette Worldwide, but 90% of my clients want to self-drive, and that’s when you need to use your skills as an agent to help them put the brakes on their itinerary.
They say they want to spend one night here, and one night there. I tell them that one night is no days. They’ll spend their entire time looking over their shoulders saying: “Darling, how lovely, it’s a shame we couldn’t stay longer.” Then I get the map out, and we look at distances, and work out a plan depending on what time they have and what they want to see.
People always want to visit both islands, but if time is an issue, maybe they won’t go further south than Queenstown, and fly home from there via Auckland. They’ll miss Dunedin, but that isn’t for everyone, although I love its castle, and it has strong Scottish connections.
They may need to choose between Milford and Doubtful Sound, and do they really need to see both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers? Scenic flights are a great way to condense the sights of South Island – from Tekapo, for instance, they can take a scenic flight to see Mount Cook and the Fox and Franz glaciers, and from Queenstown, there are scenic flights over Milford Sound.
After flying into Auckland, I send people up to the Bay of Islands or over to Coromandel, then down to Rotorua and Taupo, and over to Napier if they have time. Wellington is often bypassed a little, but they should spend one night there so they can visit the fantastic Te Papa museum, which gives a real insight into New Zealand’s history.
Then they can take the ferry to Picton from Wellington. But one thing you must remember is that visitors have to book the ferry crossing – especially if they’re using a camper van – otherwise they won’t have a home. You can’t just turn up.
On South Island, people often start with Abel Tasman National Park before moving south through Kaikoura, Christchurch, Tekapo and down to Dunedin if they’re going that far. Then Fjordland National Park and Queenstown.
The nice thing is you can mix and match self-drive with tour elements. After flying into Auckland, they can visit the Bay of Islands on a tour, then pick up the car and drive round the rest of North Island, dropping the car at Wellington. After taking the ferry over, they can take a tour to Abel Tasman, and then take the train down through Kaikoura to Christchurch.
The TransAlpine train to Greymouth is a lovely experience, after which they can pick up the car again and drive around the rest of South Island, flying home from Queenstown. That’s much less tiring than driving all the way.
Train to gain
Tourism New Zealand has a trade website with training modules and details of the Kiwi Specialist Programme, and trade training seminars. Email the UK specialistco-ordinator, Katherine Warren, on firstname.lastname@example.org for more.
Operators run workshops too, or you can ask them to come in to your office and do some training. It’s a great way to start learning about the destination – I get a lot of my knowledge from tour operators. Travel 2 and Anzcro are very good. Find someone you trust and get them to train you.
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