In 1839 Alphonse Karr became editor of Le Figaro, to which he had been a constant contributor; and he also started a monthly journal, Les Guêpes, of a keenly satirical tone, a publication which brought him the reputation of a somewhat bitter wit. His epigrams are frequently quoted, for example "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"—"the more it changes, the more it's the same thing", usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same," (Les Guêpes, January 1849, Wikipedia 2017).
A number of years ago we wrote an article which can be seen here, with our view of Tourism New Zealand's efforts in the luxury sector. One of the results of that article was the creation of Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) "Premium" as it was finally understood that a luxury sector existed. Now, several years and countless meetings further on, nothing has really changed. In fact, they've got worse. Not only does TNZ still not market us, they now have a budget which they've decided to use to compete with us and companies like ours.
TNZ have used their budget in exactly the way we hoped they wouldn't. They built an empire, swanned around the country in helicopters, and misinformed agents and the public. They ignored key industry players (mainly DMCs, but also quite a number of lodges and luxury experience providers such as helicopter companies, who we talk with all the time), turned their back on cooperation, and pushed money at "same-old, same-old". It sounds a bit like where the National Party ended up to me. As a long-term conservative voter, Jacinda Ardern and her winds of change have my full support - anything which can move us away from the dead hand of conservative NZ thinking has to be a good thing. And I'm not sure it can even be labelled "thinking".
TNZ Premium used their dominant market position to push taxpayer funds into ridiculous pseudo-luxury itineraries for under-qualified agents, putting funds into certain luxury lodges and operators. This meant that those agents were offered free trips around NZ, courtesy of TNZ Premium. For us to put the same trip together with the same agent (our client) would cost us a few thousand dollars. Faced with the choice between the TNZ Premium version and our version, the agent will take the free option. Result - TNZ Premium has used our own tax funds to compete with us on a skewed playing field and remove a marketing opportunity for us. We took this to the Commerce Commission, but they were not interested. Makes me wonder what they do for a living?
Journalists on the look-out for unique experiences are funneled into same-old lodges with same-old experiences. Meanwhile what is really new in NZ is ignored. Nah - put it in the too-hard basket, we prefer cocktails and canapes with these yes-people. One TNZ staffer told a journalist that they didn't want our innovative experiences in an itinerary as we'd "take it over and they wouldn't have anything to do". Well, from the horse's mouth and it fairly much says it all.
Mention the country's sophisticated and successful DMCs? (not only us) Nah...'cos that's what we do. Just funnel them into TNZ.com and we can grow our own business.
So when a news article like that self-serving political piece which appeared in yesterday's Herald appears, and it seems that our strategy is being controlled by US super-buyer Virtuoso, we feel we have to stand up and be heard somewhere. For we're definitely not being heard by TNZ Premium. That steamroller just carries on, throwing millions around where they are told to, and ignoring the little clever guys who actually deliver the super-value which our overseas clients want. Sound familiar? We may be ten times the size we were when we wrote the initial article, but we're being just as ignored. We may have won all sorts of international accolades, but our opinions aren't worth anything with TNZ Premium. (by the way - a high-end itinerary starts at NZD$100,000)
We, at Ahipara Luxury Travel, one of the most awarded DMCs in New Zealand, would actually be better off if TNZ Premium did not exist. Surely that can't be right?