Gambling, sharks and rock’n’roll top tourism awards

The people and businesses of the Garden City have endured trying times this year but they have at least one cause for celebration: Christchurch Casino took home the Air New Zealand supreme award at this year’s Tourism Industry Awards, while Kelly Tarlton’s was recognised for its innovative marketing campaigns and Rhythm and Vines took home the best festival/event tourism award.

The Casino has excelled this year in terms of improved staff loyalty, work training, greater competitiveness and increased customer engagement. And chief executive Brett Anderson believes the award “represents the way our workplace allows our employees to contribute more, and the focus we have taken on the quality of our workplace training”. To this end, the Casino also picked up the ATTTO (Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation) Tourism Workplace Training Award.

“Walking around this well-run business, you could feel the culture – innovation is across the whole organisation and it shows results,” said Tourism Industry Association NZ (TIANZ) chief executive Tim Cossar. “Brett Anderson knows every staff member by name and they are all encouraged to contribute their own ideas and take the initiative.”

With 550 employees to remember, Anderson deserves the Face Recognition Award as well. Christchurch Casino opened in 1994 and attracts a million visitors annually. It offers technical training across several different streams, including gaming, hospitality, security and operations.

Targeting the domestic market was key to the success of Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World this year and the pioneering Auckland attraction took home the Tourism New Zealand Innovative Marketing Campaign Award with some fresh thinking outside the shark cage.

The campaign focused on giving New Zealanders repeated reasons to keep returning.

“We wanted to communicate—specifically to our Kiwi audience—that there’s always something new to see and do at Kelly Tarlton’s, regardless of whether the last time you visited us was as a kid or with your kids last school holidays,” says marketing manager Tessa Lawrence.

Kelly Tarlton’s ran six promotions across the year, all designed to add extra value and give visitors a deeper, more engaging experience with different aspects of the attraction. Promotions included Megalodon – the Monster Shark; Meet the Babies; 25 Years Under the Sea – a quarter-century celebration that also paid homage to the man behind the business; and Penguathlon, where families can watch penguins playing soccer and Frisbee then try out some fun games for themselves.

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In an economic climate that sees fewer international tourists visiting our shores, Kelly Tarlton’s shifted its marketing to target New Zealanders, and Aucklanders particularly, and the strategies have paid off. Also in the pipeline: the re-opening of Kelly Tarlton’s Oceanarium, featuring newly arrived sand tiger sharks from New York, and an upgrade to the Antarctic Experience.

Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sunrise. And it’s an awesome sell for a New Year’s Eve gig—and one of the reasons why Rhythm and Vines took out this year’s Best Festival/Event tourism award, beating the NZI Sevens and the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games.

R&V’s continued growth in the local and international tourism market got the big nod from the TIANZ and founder Hamish Pinkham was also a finalist in the PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Young Tourism Entrepreneur Award.

“We’re indebted to the many people and organisations involved in helping make Rhythm and Vines a success, not just our core team but also the 2000-odd [volunteers]who work on the event, our many advocates and supporters in the wider Gisborne community, and of course, those at Tourism Eastland and Gisborne District Council,” says Pinkham. “Without your ongoing support the event would simply not be possible.”

R&V started out eight years ago as a one-day event for 1500 punters and has steadily upped the ante each year with bigger budgets, more acts, pyrotechnics and lighting FX, better accommodation and a sustainability policy. The three-day festival, which contributes millions of dollars into the Gisborne economy each year, now caters for 20,000 people and features 60 local and international music acts and DJs.

Ranked in the Top Five New Years Eve destinations in the world by The Times and The Guardian in the UK, the festival has seen its international audience grow to seven per cent of ticket sales.

Local businesses love R&V. In 2008 Gisborne actually ran out of pies and petrol, while McDonalds Gisborne had the highest turnover of any New Zealand store over the 2009/2010 New Year period. Every year the 2000 hotel beds in the city are booked out, and now BW Campgrounds at Waikanae Beach helps to host up to 13,000 campers. StopPress particularly applauds the Posh and Pooh scheme to find comfortable accommodation for ‘more mature’ festival goers from Gisborne locals happy to rent out their houses.

This year R&V is implementing a programme to become carbon neutral in three years. Ticket purchasers can pay an extra $4.50 that goes towards planting a tree at a new R&V Forest in the Gisborne area.

  • Read about all the tourism winners and finalists here.

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