Julia Hunt, Trade Partnerships Manager, ChristchurchNZ
OPINION: We want to keep Ōtautahi Christchurch front of mind in international markets. This isn’t easy. Our borders are shut, the travel trade sector has been hugely impacted by Covid-19 and the future is very much uncertain.
While the domestic market is active with the entire country in Level 2, international visitors seem a long way off. But they will return.
To that end, we realise we can take this opportunity to refresh our destination proposition, elevate our brand messages and communicate the values of manaakitanga to our travel partners overseas.
Christchurch and Canterbury will still be here, once our borders reopen and we want our travel trade partners to sell our destination to visit.
But how do we do that? Well, we have to innovate, something our city does very well.
Famils are one of the most powerful tools we can use to sell Christchurch but they’re a no go right now.
So, in the year the Christchurch was supposed to play host to TRENZ, we asked ourselves - if we can’t bring the trade audience to Christchurch, how about if we bring Christchurch to the trade audience?
We decided to transform our engagement with trade into an experience, inspiring them to dream about Christchurch as a holiday destination for their clients and take them on a virtual journey through our region.
And we decided to use cutting edge technology to achieve that.
The ChristchurchNZ Virtual Famil experience started with a Powhiri and virtual arrival at Christchurch International Airport, followed by immersive city exploration with a live broadcast from the Christchurch Gondola.
Then the audience was taken on a journey through the Alpine Pacific Touring Route visiting Hanmer, Kaikoura, North Canterbury wine region and to the Mackenzie region touring Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook National Park. The Canterbury showcase included a live broadcast from the middle of the Mackenzie High Country which added a huge wow factor to the experience.
We partnered with the Virtual Famil company to deliver this interactive experience. The Virtual Famil team helped deliver on our vision - from creating content to rehearsals to the most seamless experience on the day using the latest technology.
Deb Gee from The Virtual Famil
Technology allows us to think differently about how we engage and the experience we can deliver and by using all the touchpoints available, our team can create a really engaging format to showcase a city, destination or region and bring its unique qualities to guests.
Deb Gee from The Virtual Famil says:
“Having faced the challenge of not being able to deliver a tangible famil to New Zealand for our own clients as we had planned, we developed the best possible virtual experience, to really get as close to engaging with the product as we could.
‘’Technology allows us to think differently about how we engage and the experience we can deliver and by using all the touchpoints available, our team can create a really engaging format to showcase a city, destination or region and bring its unique qualities to guests.
‘’We loved working with Julia and the team at ChristchurchNZ to showcase the region and meet their objectives for the virtual famil and the feedback from the audience was testament to the fact that the format was well received.”
The first live broadcast of Virtual Famil was delivered to North American Travel Advisors which was achieved in partnership with the TNZ North America team reaching a live audience of over 135 agents during the first session. We have been blown away by the feedback and the engagement from the agents during the session.
I felt like I was teleported to New Zealand and was on a famil exploring Christchurch and Canterbury,’
‘‘I felt like I was teleported to New Zealand and was on a famil exploring Christchurch and Canterbury,’’ one of the applicants told us
Right now, we do know that there are travel trade audiences who are hungry for content and the opportunities ahead – even much further out than 2020 or 2021.
Our goal is to provide that engagement opportunity for those audiences, support travel distribution channels, build future focused strategic partnerships, maintain relationships, support TNZ and be at a forefront of recovery curve for international markets.