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Talking business

by Anthony Haas

 

Marlborough regional strategy in showcase for Japan


Oct 8, 2008

The August 2008 Progress Marlborough economic development strategy draft report has influenced the showcase for Japanese VIPs onboard Marlborough Travel’s catamaran Odyssea in Pelorus Sound on 8 October..

This meeting of Marlborough, other New Zealand and Japanese interests may help build productive relationships. Or it may prove too difficult, and there may be no follow up interest on either side.

In due course Marlborough decision makers could step up evaluation as to how productive it may prove to be to work with Japanese to attract more tourists from Japan, investment in Blenheim’s desired new 100 bed hotel and other businesses.

Representatives of Jetro, the Japan External Trade Organisation, Michitaka Nakatomi and Koji Tauchi are, alongside JTB leaders and staff of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, amongst the VIPs from the Japan New Zealand Business Council who planned to travel to the showcasing of Marlborough on Pelorus by local representatives.

We may get some indication how far tourism, aviation, aquaculture and natural products strategies identified for Marlborough in the Progress Marlborough strategy are worth exploring with Japanese - and Kiwis who know Japan. Useful impressions may be gained during the Odyssey cruise and in follow up in Wellington, Auckland and Tokyo.

JTB
Jason Hill, Regional Manager Japan, Tourism New Zealand says this is an opportunity to showcase New Zealand and Marlborough’s growing wine tourism industry to VIPs from the largest travel agency in Japan and Asia, JTB.

“Tourism New Zealand and JTB have a very close working relationship and we hope that the visit to Marlborough will deepen their understanding of the quality of our wine and eco-tourism sectors” says Tokyo based Mr Hill.

In collaboration with Destination Marlborough, Tourism New Zealand brought a group of Japanese travel agents to the region in April last year, which resulted in a new tour focusing on the Nelson Marlborough region being produced this year by JTB.

“The outlook for arrivals from Japan is not positive but there is a shift from “see everything” coach tours, to more independent and sophisticated travel. Marlborough as a region, with its ever-growing wine and eco-tourism product, is well placed to capture a slice of this valuable pie”.

“Japan is still a difficult market to crack for new players in part because of the language barrier, the complex nature of the distribution system and the time taken to generate a return. Tourism New Zealand in Japan, backed by Destination Marlborough and local operator support, is making steady progress in raising Marlborough’s profile in Japan” says Mr Hill.

Jetro
At an early 2008 Wellington seminar Jetro researcher Ryo Mizuno pointed out that New Zealand companies could get Jetro Auckland, including its advisory services, to help Kiwis develop trade and investment links in Japan.

Mr Mizuno described New Zealand as one of the APEC economies with abundant natural resources. There are “huge opportunities for us to strengthen trade relations as well as to enhance stable supply of natural resources”.

Ryo Mizuno accentuated the value of sister city relationships and ‘local to local’ cooperation. In the latter field Jetro sought to “link private companies of both countries, to enhance our technology levels through cooperation”. Jetro saw itself as a bridge “between local to local businesses”. He said Japan’s Regional Industry Tie-up (RIT) projects can mitigate Japan’s widening income gap, and ease the impact of ageing and population concentrations through for example agriculture and tourism.

Recent New Zealand investment efforts supported by Jetro are in entertainment, software, IT, hotel, advertising, translation services, and food and beverage including dairy products. Ryo Mizuno said Japan can import New Zealand’s high technologies while New Zealand’s investments in Japan grow. There were exciting opportunities for New Zealand SMEs “with their cutting edge technologies in biotechnology, food/beverages, information technology and tourism” he said.

Progress Marlborough
Tourism, aviation, aquaculture and other natural products are businesses cited in the Progress Marlborough strategy draft report that could be matched with Japanese - or other – interests.

The strategy says the establishment in Blenheim of additional hotel capacity in the 3-4 star range to complement the Convention Centre and achieve tourism growth targets should be pursued as a matter of urgency. The construction of the Marlborough Convention Centre provides the sector with an opportunity to expand its seasonal appeal into the shoulder seasons. Increased hotel accommodation capacity is the key. Arrangements have been negotiated for a 100 room expansion to the Scenic Circle hotel property to be completed by 2012.

Progress Marlborough’s strategy includes the development of aquaculture.

The Oct 8 Japanese guests will be offered a taste of local salmon, mussels and chocolate as well as wine and the view.

Follow up
Tourism New Zealand’s Jason Hill suggests Destination Marlborough lead follow-up to Auckland based inbound tour operators such as JTB.

This tour is, in the language of the Japanese visitors, a sightseeing showcase. If something substantive is to come out of this visit it may need Marlborough interests to encourage appropriate Japanese to consider inspection visits, moving step by step.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise ceo Tim Gibson says NZTE has an active relationship with Jetro, and is available to assist local interests to follow up with it and interests it may introduce.

Key introductions have been made. The ball is in the court of Marlborough business and local government interests – and their stakeholders – to follow up alone or with neighbours and others.


By Anthony Haas, Publisher and Director, DecisionMaker Group


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