INTERVIEW: Andrew Waddel, GM Tourism New Zealand, Australia

I caught up for a choice latté with Andrew Waddel at the recent annual four-day Tourism New Zealand showcase TRENZ in Rotorua to gauge his insights on all things ' New Australia land'.

I caught up for a choice latté with Andrew Waddel at the recent annual four-day Tourism New Zealand showcase TRENZ in Rotorua to gauge his insights on all things ‘ New Australia land’.

With an impressive CV in senior marketing and leadership roles working for top-tier global brands such as Red Bull and Anheuser-Busch, Andrew took up the position in Sydney as GM Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), Australia around ten months ago, which so far, he says “has been hugely exhilarating and exciting.”

This was Andrew’s first taste of TRENZ and one he says inspired him considerably “given the widespread positivity of the industry and the energy and passion people have for what’s going on in New Zealand now and for the future.”

TRENZ19, Rotorua Energy Events Centre

TRENZ19, Rotorua Energy Events Centre

“For someone new into the industry that likes to be able to take new products to market this event really excites me. It’s a fantastic way of connecting with Australians around what they’re interested in, what’s relevant, and what motivates them to travel,” he says.

With a much-loved leader in Jacinda Ardern and a strategy that begins from the top down, New Zealand is a country forging ahead on their mission of ‘a sustainable tourism industry that benefits all Kiwi’s’, with a mantra that ‘everyone who visits New Zealand must leave it in a better place than when they arrived’.


The Tiaki Promise

In Australia, sadly this kind of common-sense thinking may seem like cloud cuckoo land right now, but for New Zealand, the dream is all that closer to becoming a reality thinks Andrew.

“For the long term future, I think tourism is in a pivotal time. While understandably there is some doom and gloom globally about the environmental, social and community impact travel can bring, I really get a feel, particularly out of New Zealand that people are standing up and doing something about it. I think it’s going to be really interesting to be part of that discussion rather than just watching it from the sidelines.”


Otago Central Rail Trail

Andrew’s feeling is that to date, Tourism New Zealand’s success has been helped along by getting buy-in from the entire industry along with the government, the department of conservation and Air New Zealand.

“TNZ has been collaboratively championing this idea of ‘enrichment’ and around leaving the place in a better state than when you found it. It’s about visitors making a more significant contribution to where they go, how they land, and what their impact is on the communities they visit. That’s what the ‘TIAKI Promise’ is all about, and so far it’s resonated loudly with travellers.”

“If we’re not doing that as an industry and the marketing body for the people of New Zealand, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all. So rather than focussing on leaving no footprint – as that’s kind of impossible, what if that footprint could make a bigger, more positive difference than it never being there at all?”


Te Puia, Rotorua

Asking Andrew his thoughts on whether he thinks Australians understand the New Zealand cultural difference for visitors, he feels that it’s a competitive time for everyone in the region.

“There’s no doubt Australians know plenty about New Zealand, so the preference to visit at some stage is super high, but the potential urgency or desire to go now hasn’t really been there to date,”

“A lot of it is historical, but it’s also down to so many other options to choose from. Travel has moved from a luxury item to an everyday necessity, and in doing so all of a sudden, the decision factors that you’re dealing with today are everything from a new car to a new lounge suite or a new gym membership,”

“So while we’re part of the standard consideration set – within Australia, I can go to Melbourne, I can go to Perth, I can go to Fiji and Bali. So it’s really competitive. Our opportunity is doing things differently based on being true to who we are.”


In June, New Zealand will launch the next evolution of their 100% Pure New Zealand campaign, which remarkably is celebrating twenty years since it’s inception.

“100% pure New Zealand has never only been about one aspect, it’s always been about the purity of the experience you can have in New Zealand which includes the people, the place, the sustainability and the hospitable experiences you’ll feel. As much as it’s a showcase of the country and why you should come and visit, it’s a campaign that connects with your heart,” he says.

“The next iteration of 100% Pure New Zealand is about standing for something in a world that seems to stand for less these days, and that’s phenomenal. It’s more than a campaign, and it’s going to be really exciting”.

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Speaking about the Australian travel trade, Andrew says that understanding the scope of channels was initially, a learning curve.

“Coming in, I guess I underestimated the scale of the Australian trade and the sheer number of channels and experience needed to navigate those channels. Fortunately, I’ve got a fantastic team alongside me whose passion, energy and belief in what they’re doing are at the highest level.”

“The Australian trade is highly educated, knowledgeable, motivated, excited and wants to go beyond the norms of travel. We’ve got an exceptional brand and product to talk about to meet all of those needs, but it still has to be a two-way relationship with the trade. They are the ones on the ground who really know what’s going on, so you have to be able to listen to make more informed decisions that actually support them and the consumer as well.”

“We’re committed to ensuring that every travel agent can experience New Zealand whether that be in Australia in some shape or form, through our interactions with our team or in New Zealand itself.”


Ogo in Rotorua

We finish up our latté’s with me asking Andrew how he’s finding the role ten months in.

“I’m really enjoying it, and it feels in many ways that I’ve come home to a place where I’m able to connect with a big passion and pride of being a Kiwi. This role almost feels a little bit too good in a way.”

“I’ve been fortunate through my family, work and my own personal travel to visit every region in New Zealand in some shape or form, except one – I’m not going to tell you which one it is though.” He laughs.

“That’s my next trip,” he says.


What do you love about New Zealand? Share your thoughts below.