Understanding Domestic Tourists to Support COVID-19 Recovery Strategies – The Case of Aotearoa New Zealand
With international tourism at a standstill and domestic tourism being decisive in post-COVID-19 recovery strategies, tourism destinations need to turn their lenses more inwardly again. Pre-COVID-19 destination marketing and management strategies were often following neoliberal growth frameworks, focusing on the international visitor. Respectively, there is an abundance of consumer insights related to international demand, yet knowledge about the desires of domestic visitors is often lacking. It remains unclear how the previous outward-oriented lens has impacted the travel behaviour of domestic tourists. Based on 20 semi-structured interviews with multiple stakeholders across Aotearoa New Zealand, this research provides valuable insights into the country’s domestic tourists. Findings reveal three core themes about domestic tourism pre-COVID-19: (1) Dispersal strategies resulted in spatial and temporal displacement; (2) Unrealistic domestic tourists holding on to the past; (3) Widespread blaming of ‘others’ and hiding of own misbehaviour. Given that it remains uncertain when international travel will resume, and the calls for a re-thinking of tourism that avoids going back to the old ‘normal’ and instead integrates more resilience and sustainability thinking, the stimulation of domestic demand should not only be temporary but a long-term strategy. It will be the task of policy makers and the tourism industry to make sure that New Zealanders re-discover their homeland while becoming better kaitiaki (guardians). This paper provides important theoretical insights and practical implications for post-COVID-19 recovery strategies of destinations.
Keywords: domestic tourism, domestic marketing, tourism policy, COVID-19, post-disaster recovery, New Zealand