Episode #002 - Rowan Worner (ChristchurchNZ), tech companies in travel and #lifeinHEL for Helsinki Airport
In our second episode co-hosts Lauren Quaintance and Andrés López-Varela interview ChristchurchNZ’s General Manager of Marketing Rowan Worner who has been at the helm since the city was hit with devastating earthquakes seven years ago. What does the DMO do in the days, weeks and months after a major disaster? Worner talks about working out of a team members’ living room after the earthquake hit in 2011 and the eventual shift back to actively marketing the destination. The Australian market was key for Christchurch with 24% drop in visitors from across the Tasman in the first 12 months after the quake.
But since Australians had watched the disaster unfold live on television they were also some of the hardest to lure back, “Because of that live streaming of the disaster on TV screens in Australian homes… it’s been a hard road and the Australian holiday visitor has been the hardest to change the perception.” One unexpected result was that that the quake forced the DMO to look beyond Christchurch’s CBD - which was worst hit - and shine a light on the city’s neighbourhoods and the broader Canterbury region. While Rowan says that success was initially measured in terms of “perception change” Christchurch has been able to switch back to more performance-based measures such as visitation and overnight spend. “We still have quite a significant job to do, but because the positive stories are filtering through… lots of different channels, it definitely helps us to do our job,” Worner says.
Meanwhile in our regular segment ‘Trend Monitor’ we talk about tech companies in travel including Google’s Pixel Buds which Andrés argues is a good example of “big tech companies taking their hardware, software and data and aiming it at the travel industry to exploit a space they haven’t really mastered just yet.” Another huge trend that destination marketers will need to grapple with is the role of voice search and Andrés says it is essential to think about whether your content has been created with voice search in mind.
Finally, in ‘Campaign News’ we discuss the recent #lifeinHEL campaign where Chinese influencer Ryan Zhu spent 30 days living in Helsinki Airport in an attempt to persuade Asian travellers that the airport is the best in the world. Lauren questions the whole premise of airport marketing, arguing that specific deals and airline loyalty schemes have a greater influence on the route travellers take but Andrés argues that the target group (travellers from ‘tier one’ and ‘tier two’ cities in China) may have not been previously exposed to airport marketing so may respond well to this campaign.