Wednesday Letter: An industry renewed

The Ticker‘s Paul Yandall takes a look back at the leadership changes over the past year and argues industry renewal is the story of 2017. 

Paul Yandall

If you cast your mind back to this time last year, the consequences of John Key’s surprise resignation were beginning to be seen. Bill English had just taken over as PM and Paula Bennett had been appointed tourism minister – roles many people thought both would hold for much longer than just nine months.

Despite that leadership change, it felt like business as usual for industry. There might be some tinkering around the edges to satisfy increasingly urgent calls for infrastructure funding but the general thrust of the government’s relatively hands-off direction was clear and seemingly set.

What the Labour Party was planning for the industry was not so clear but, honestly, who really cared? Few gave Labour much chance of grabbing power in the upcoming election.

At a local government level, the country’s two tourism hotspots, Queenstown and Auckland, had relatively new mayors – one with a deep understanding of how to build a tourism business and support the industry and the other with an extensive plan to tax it.

At an agency level, Tourism New Zealand’s Kevin Bowler had exited the stage, and Stephen England-Hall’s appointment was announced this very date that year. Up the road at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Iain Cossar was preparing to take over as general manager of Tourism, Sectors, Regions and Cities.

A year on and with a new political leadership in place, there’s a palpable sense of renewal seeping through the industry. The new tourism minister, Kelvin Davis, is coming up to speed and we expect to see some significant announcements in 2018.

What opportunities will there be for operators to take advantage? Will there be any far-reaching structural changes announced? Will Labour pile in or stand off? Maybe Labour’s plans will not amount to much at all but until we know for sure, we sit in anticipation.

Across the wider industry, over the course of the year, leadership changes have been noted at organisations as diverse as SkyCity, Skyline Enterprises, ATEED, ChristchurchNZ, WREDA, Qrious, Rangatira Investments, Rainbow’s End, and the Tourism Export Council, to name just a few.

Two aspects of these changes that we have noticed are the quality of the appointments and the number of those coming from outside of the industry. From Joanna Norris at ChristchurchNZ to Karen Crabb at Rainbow’s End it’s clear organisations are casting their nets wider than the traditional tourism sector to seek talent for top roles.

Can these newcomers inject fresh ideas into the industry? We will watch the progress of these new leaders with interest.

Leadership without vision is just management so we have been impressed by the work that Tourism Industry Aotearoa has put into leading the industry on a number of important issues this year. Can it turn initiatives on sustainability and insight into tangible action that will make a difference to operators? We certainly hope so.

Just a word on what we are up to. Our Morning (mid-afternoon!) Bulletin takes a much-needed break after this week and will return at the end of January. Thank you again for all of your support during our first year of publication. We have big plans for next year and we hope you do too.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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