FOCUS on Data: Fresh fields

Economic and tourism consultant Fresh Info, one of the biggest users of NZ’s visitor data, has expanded to Australia.

Shane Vuletich

The Auckland-based company has opened a Melbourne office headed by infrastructure specialist Ryan Reynolds, says Fresh Info managing director Shane Vuletich.

“The office will be targeting business in Australia, exporting our NZ skill, particularly in events where we are ahead of the game compared to there. But we will be importing Australian expertise around infrastructure and funding issues so, we get to transfer  knowledge in both directions.”

Tourism infrastructure in NZ, under stress in certain places at certain times of the year, required some robust analysis, says Vuletich

“There are a lot of knee-jerk reactions, which basically say we need to build infrastructure because we can’t cope with demand. The reality is, in many cases, we can’t cope with demand for about two months a year and the other 10 months we’re actually quite empty.”

Building new infrastructure might be desirable but a more sensible solution might be to add capacity only for those peak periods.

“It might make sense to build a new set of toilets in some places but it might make better sense in others to hire some luxury toilets for the summer and then give them back at the end of that peak and hire them again the next season,” says Vuletich.

His Fresh Info company was formed fours years ago following a rebranding of Vuletich’s Covec consultancy. The company provides economic analysis, forecasting and advice to a number of tourism organisations to help them plan. Tourism data sits at the heart of the business.

“The integrity of our work depends critically on the data we use to inform it, so we have a strong interest in the scope and quality of the tourism data available to us,” says Vuletich.

“We are one of the largest users of tourism data in New Zealand, so we need to understand what’s available, and how it can and can’t be used. We are strong believers in the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ principle, so we take this responsibility very seriously.”

Fresh Info’s work included the Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s hotel statistics, which include occupancy and revenue benchmarking for 150 hotels in NZ, and the AA Traveller, a domestic overnight travel monitor that has received over 150,000 responses since July 2013.

Vuletich broke down Fresh Info’s role in the market: Understanding the strengths and limitations of each data, joining disparate data sources together to create new insights, and filling information gaps.

“We’re benefitting from frustration among tourism organisations who have more data at their fingertips than ever before but none of it is meeting their needs,” says Vuletich. “That’s the real problem, you cannot just think ‘we need more data’, you have to listen to what the end user actually needs and respond to that.”

It was great to see private sector players like Marketview, Qrious and ourselves providing tourism data, adds Vuletich.

“We do so in the knowledge that if we don’t deliver value, we don’t get paid.  This provides a strong incentive to understand and respond to our customer’s needs, which should be the starting point for any data product,” he says.

“One thing we’ve learned over the past 20 years is that the pathway to the future won’t be a straight line, so we need honesty and agility in our data system so that it can serve the industry as well as it possibly can.”

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