A new Japan innovation fund launched today by Auckland Airport will further encourage New Zealand tourism businesses to develop products and services that inspire more Japanese to visit New Zealand and help reverse the decline in visitor arrivals seen in recent years.
Coming hot on the heels of Prime Minister John Key's recent visit to Japan to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Auckland Airport has announced a contestable $250,000 Japan Innovation Fund to support further development from the industry and improve our competitiveness.
“Japan is a high potential tourism market that is showing strong signs of being ready to rebound to peak visitor numbers,” says Glenn Wedlock, Auckland Airport's General Manager Aeronautical Commercial.
“The Japan Innovation Fund is part of our Ambition 2020 initiative1, focused on getting the Japanese tourist market back up to more than 100,000 visitors each year. In order to do this, we need to show them we can deliver the unique experiences they want and offer great value, comparable to countries like Croatia and Slovenia which have seen significant increases in the number of Japanese visitors in the past four years.
"We are seeing good growth in the market with several airlines increasing capacity between New Zealand and Japan, but there is huge potential to develop further demand from Japan if we get this right.”
Once activated, the fund will be in place for 12 months, and airlines and other tourism providers will be able to apply for funding to support the development and marketing of products and services to Japan. The Auckland Airport Aeronautical Business Development Team will be outlining how the fund works later this year via a series of workshops and industry engagements. The airport is encouraging the industry to develop new products, experiences and marketing. The initiative will also complement existing Tourism New Zealand campaigns, and will also support interest generated by The Hobbit.
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler said “we warmly welcome Auckland International Airport’s support for tourism and innovation for an important market such as Japan to assist it to recover from a period marked by natural disasters and economic challenges.”
Auckland Airport analysis predicts Japanese travellers could contribute $300 million each year in visitor value by 2020 – it was about $209 million at the end of 2011. “Air capacity from Japan to New Zealand needs to increase to support this lift in inbound tourism, and will also support the development of high value air freight exports, which is a key focus for the Government," says Mr Wedlock.
The Prime Minister's tour of Japan was focused on exploring opportunities to strengthen extensive bilateral ties and discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would further improve advanced trade relations between the two nations. Japan is our fourth-largest partner in trade and investment, and fifth largest inbound tourism market by arrivals and expenditure.
Tourism Industry Association Chief Executive, Martin Snedden, said "This type of investment in New Zealand tourism is just what is needed to increase arrivals, particularly from high net worth markets like Japan. It is great to see Auckland Airport investing in such a focused and meaningful way, giving tourism businesses the impetus to do better for the benefit of our economy".
Ambition 2020 was launched during TRENZ in Queenstown earlier this year, and has to date seen Auckland Airport invest in events such as TRENZ and Queenstown Winterfest, a Tourism Asia Marketing Fund competition, and New Zealand tours by international celebrities from Asia including Farah Quinn, Haiyin Chen and Dong Xuan.
 The Ambition 2020 initiative highlights and aims to target China, Indonesia and other ASEAN markets like Japan as vitally important components in driving our tourism market and economic growth.