Restricted tourism amid the pandemic should not be a reason for destinations to stop their marketing efforts to tourists. More than ever, destinations that can impress tourists now will have an advantage when global tourism resumes. The Play NZ campaign is a prime example of innovative destination marketing during this period.
Thanks to the geographical and cultural proximity, Australia has been an important tourist market of New Zealand over the years and was New Zealand’s largest international tourist market before the pandemic. According to data from Tourism New Zealand, in 2019, the number of tourists from Australia to New Zealand was 1.5 million, accounting for 40% of the total inbound arrivals and spent 2.7 billion USD on New Zealand’s tourism industry. In the other hand, New Zealand is a top destination for Australian tourists, many Australians visit New Zealand three to four times in their lifetime.
However, before Covid-19, New Zealand had to start facing competitive pressure from other prominent destinations in the world. Iceland, the USA, Japan, etc began to rise rapidly in the top destinations favored by Australian tourists. Domestic destinations such as South Australia, Tasmania attracts more Australian tourists to travel. This poses a challenge for New Zealand to maintain its number one position in the list of favorite destinations for Australian tourists.
Until the Covid-19 pandemic occurred in 2020, many countries around the world had to close their borders and halted outbound travel globally, Australia and New Zealand were no exception. However, with the close relationship between the two countries and as Australia is New Zealand’s number one tourist market, Tourism New Zealand was quick to focus its resources on reviving this market first. In May 2020, New Zealand and Australia were the first two countries to come up with the idea of a travel bubble to make it easier for travelers between the two countries to travel during the pandemic, thereby promoting tourism to resume. Although then, because of the complicated factors of the epidemic, the travel bubble could not be deployed, New Zealand also continued to develop another innovative idea, “Play NZ”.
Game Play NZ idea
Play NZ is a role-playing game that recreates the beautiful sceneries and landscapes of New Zealand and integrates the unique culture of the indigenous Māori community. Through the game, Australian tourists can explore New Zealand in a whole new way amid the pandemic, when travel restrictions make it impossible for tourists to visit New Zealand in real life as before. Through the virtual experiences of the game, the campaign aims to maintain New Zealand’s destination image, stay connected with Australian tourists and inspire them to explore New Zealand as soon as possible.
Together with creative agency TBWA\Sydney, Tourism New Zealand launched a campaign with the same name to promote the game. The Play NZ campaign targets Australian millennials, aged 25 to 39. This is the generation that loves new experiences and will likely ‘first to fly’ when travel bubble deployed.
How New Zealand came up with the idea and implemented
According to pre-campaign research, video games were the most popular entertainment channel in Australia before Covid-19, especially among millennials. And during the time when the Australian border was closed, people were restricted to travel and it was difficult for people to have outside entertainment experiences as before, the video game had become popular alternative entertainment. Playing video games during isolation at home is a way to keep people entertained and connected. Video games in Australia have shown their potential to grow by 75% during this period.
Among the types of video games, walkthrough game are the most popular in Australia. There are many gamers spending most of their time watching walkthroughs rather than playing themselves. Therefore, choosing a walkthrough game for this Play NZ will help Tourism New Zealand reach the target audience with a larger number.
Besides, according to research from Tourism New Zealand and its agency, people who like to play video games are considered to have a lot in common with tourists because both loves to explore and find new experiences, love adventure, overcome challenges and share their experiences.
Tourism New Zealand’s in-depth research has helped to clearly define their target audience for the campaign as well as come up with a unique approach idea, most relevant to the target audience to achieve the best effect for the campaign.
Integrating destinations in the game to help people explore New Zealand
Play NZ leverages the rich heritage and myths of the Māori culture to offer players unique and distinctive knowledge and experiences about New Zealand. Tourism New Zealand worked with cultural advisors to blend Māori culture into the world of gaming in a way that authentically delivering New Zealand’s unique culture while retaining the thrilling emotion of a role-playing game.
The characters in the game are named after regions of New Zealand, concepts of Māori culture. The native te reo language is integrated into the game and through the character’s journey of discovery by keywords and quest in each region, such as ‘aroha’ (compassion and empathy), ‘kaha’ (energy and strength). For example, Tane “The Kaitiaki” – a Māori concept that means “the guardian”, requires the player to commit the Tiaki Promise: commitment to protect the natural environment, so that they can unlocked the new region.
Playing Play NZ, players will explore and unlock each region of New Zealand with more than 18 virtual exploration tours in 180 degrees and somes in 360 degrees that allow players to get panoramic views. Tourism New Zealand has created a new set of visual language and user interface gaming for Play NZ, showing Tourism New Zealand’s investment and efforts in this campaign.
In addition to the growth of video games, online platforms also experienced tremendous growth during the lockdown period in Australia and New Zealand. In particular, streaming platform Twitch in Australia has grown by 32% of views per day during this time. Twitch is also one of the leading game streaming and sharing platforms in the worldwide community of video game lovers. Therefore, Tourism New Zealand took advantage of the popularity of the platform to promote the campaign.
In addition, Tourism New Zealand also cooperates with Loserfruit – a popular game influencer in Australia has 1.8 million followers on Twitch and 2.8 million followers on YouTube. The large followers from Loserfruit coupled with the similarity between her followers and the campaign’s target audience help the Play NZ campaign reach a wider audience. Loserfruit posted a 9-minute video in which she plays Play NZ live, leading viewers to explore the lands of New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand also partnered with other content creators such as William Waiirua and influencers in the gaming community to promote the campaign across multiple social media platforms.
With the Play NZ campaign, Tourism New Zealand had a clear strategy and goals. Tourism New Zealand has defined one target market as Australia rather than reaching out to mass markets globally. Defining one target market also helps Tourism New Zealand to research deeply the interests and characteristics of the target audience to have a strategy to choose an approach channel and an effective and appropriate marketing method.
Although only focusing on the Australian market, the Play NZ campaign has exceeded expectations. The campaign reached over 100 million people globally, achieving an average dwell time of 9 minutes on Play NZ page. The post-campaign assessment shows that the number of Australian tourists intending to visit New Zealand after the lockdown is increased by 387% and maintained its position as the top preferred destination for Australian tourists.
In addition, the Play NZ campaign also received many awards in the field of marketing at B&T Awards 2020 – the award for leading creative marketing communication campaigns in Australia.