Destination Rotorua moves into virtual familiarisation

A surprise package from Rotorua was sent to clients in Sydney

Industry familiarisations of the virtual kind are expected to gain momentum after Destination Rotorua successfully hosted its first virtual destination showcase for targeted, high-value clients.

The activity was a collaboration between Destination Rotorua and The Virtual Famil (TVF), which was created by three veteran event and tourism managers based in Australia and New Zealand.

A box of surprises from Destination Rotorua was sent to luxury incentive agents based in Sydney

“We were thinking of innovative solutions…to stay in touch with our clients,” said Katie Neeley, sales coordinator for business events at Destination Rotorua. “Obviously we were doing webinars but when TVF approached us with this new idea, it was perfect timing and very different to your typical Zoom meeting or webinar that we’re all probably a bit fatigued with by now”.

Held earlier this month, the familiarisation experience was sent to a small group of luxury incentive agents in Sydney, from a list curated by TVF.

Participants received an interactive goodie box the day before their online Zoom session which included products from Polynesian Spa, a bottle of wine from Rotorua’s Volcanic Hills, and cooking ingredients.

“I suppose that served as an element of surprise (that you normally get with familiarisations) because they didn’t know exactly what these things were going to be used for until they were actually on the familiarisation,” said Neeley.

Once online, the 30-minute experience started with a Maori greeting followed by a live wine tasting, a cooking demonstration hosted by Terrace Kitchen using the ingredients in participants’ boxes, and an overview of accommodation and other product offerings.

This pilot experiment has led to enquiries for similar events in the absence of on-the-ground experiences, which have been on hold since Covid-19 lockdowns crippled most of the airline and travel industry.

Neeley shared that clients went on to cook, using the ingredients from the goodie box, and pairing their food with the complimentary wine, and finally posting their experience on social media.

“(It) was cool…to see them still thinking about the experience after the event was over,” she remarked, adding that the positive feedback has encouraged Destination Rotorua to consider hosting more virtual familiarisations.

“We’re definitely thinking about expanding this for our businesses events team. Our international trade team is looking into that as well; (we’re) just thinking about the different ways we can coordinate this,” Neeley continued, adding that tailored experiences are also being considered for the Asian market.

Meantime TVF co-founder Ganessan Suppiah told TTGmice that “solid leads” have emerged from Destination Rotorua’s virtual familiarisation, with more CVBs enquiring about organising similar experiences.

TVF, which provides a full production team to manage all live feeds for guests and presenters, is also hoping to expand to Asia.

“Asia would be a key and very important region both as participants and as destinations with so many iconic and bespoke products,” said Suppiah.

“We expect virtual familiarisations to be the new norm even after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and with Asia, the cultural aspect with traditional cuisine would be extremely successful,” he concluded.

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