At the 2017 New Zealand Airports Conference, Venture Southland's business and strategic projects general manager, Steve Canny, identified the important role airports are playing in driving tourism opportunities across New Zealand.

Steve Canny presenting at 2017 Airports Conference

In his address, Mr Canny outlined the “power” of data to support decision making, by providing near real time understanding of key trends, identifying emerging trends in a dynamic market, highlighting key pressure points and opportunities for development, and supporting strategic policy and investment.

Noting “no one source of information or data paints a clear picture of trends and perceptions”, he said one of many resources utilised by Venture Southland is GPS metadata from Geozone (a group of 20 mobile apps used by independent travellers). It has revealed such insights as that about 65,000 people are currently staying annually at the Fiordland National Park, with campervans averaging 1.6-day visits.

A recent case study undertaken on Milford Sound using such modern data resources revealed growth of about 350,000 visitors and about 10% vehicles had occurred in the past four years. Mr Canny said this information has been used to identify overcrowding
pressures and consequent cost implications on Queenstown accommodation, locations that people enter/leave the region, duration of stay and seasonality, and need for increased campervan facilities.

He said social media mining is “very important”, with Venture Southland having a particular focus on Asia/China in order to “gauge and improve” the experience from this key market.
Visa data can also provide a good indicator of travel intentions.

However, he said primary research on where travellers fly to and from “cannot be substituted” in establishing arrival points, travel routes/ directions, stops, points of interest
and duration of stay. Load factors are another source of information — “flight capacity and
loading equals opportunity to support new itineraries/events”.

Describing Airbnb as a “business as usual disruptor”, he said Venture Southland is using “Web-scraping” software to fully analyse its offerings, forward bookings and availability. He notes Airbnb has increased the range of local accommodation options and overall capacity while creating challenges for commercial accommodation investment and potentially even having an influence on Local Government policy.

Mr Canny said electronic transaction data sourced via Marketview allows analysis of spend across key categories such as retail, transport and accommodation, event assessment to establish the abovebaseline spend as well as analysis of domestic versus international market spend and targets.

Additionally, Meltwater is a notable media mining, reach and dollar value resource. He urged those in the sector to collate and analyse information via such modern data sets in order to gain valuable insights into potential investment, product development and other commercial offerings — “no longer can you just use traditional information”. 

“New Zealand is a very small country, the more we collaborate on this kind of information, the better. The more we start to think strategically about the opportunities, the better.

“In terms of turning this information into insights, the first simple step is dissemination — that is useful to at least give people an understanding of the current position. But the true value is when you start to create deliverable solutions — new itineraries, new reasons for travel, natural connections, strategic connections on load factors and various other things — that’s where we really start to leverage opportunities for airports, tourist operators and ultimately the visitors.

“Data is gold — understanding data is platinum.”

Article has been abridged from an article originally published by NZ Airports Magazine in the October 2017 edition.