Royal tourism: an estimate is not an outcome

The results of our Official Information Act request to Tourism NZ are in: William and Kate’s last Royal tour in 2014 generated $70 million in advertising value for New Zealand! When we kicked this request off in January, we said this was implausable. And it turns out this is just an estimate, based on assumptions of what Tourism New Zealand would otherwise have to spend money on advertising, by counting up mentions of New Zealand (even where it’s both Australia and New Zealand). There is nothing concrete to show what the outcomes of this notional spending are, other than to say more people searched for hotels in New Zealand online. Put simply, an estimate is not a benefit, and it cannot be honestly claimed that Royal tours benefit New Zealand to this extent.

That is not to say that there isn’t any benefit from the Royal tours. I’m sure that there are at least some people who will see the Royals visiting New Zealand in the newsmedia and then want to travel here. The exact number though is unknown, and more importantly, it’s not even measured. Mentioned in Tourism' NZ’s estimates is that hotel website Trivago reported a 70% increase in searches for New Zealand hotels and motels after the tour. We don’t actually know though if that translated into bookings. What we do know is that the number of tourists arriving has increased from markets mentioned in Tourism New Zealand’s analysis.

According to Statistics NZ’s numbers post the Royal Tour of 2014, the standout performer was tourists from the United States, which increased by 10% in the year after the tour. But, the following year (2015-16) it increased again by a whopping 27%. It turns out that this is largely thanks to airlines flying to and from the United States adding new flights, and thereby increasing capacity, particularily to Hawaii. So clearly other factors are much more important than the tour, and again, there’s nothing to actually link the tour to the increase in tourists.

The overstatement of the value of Royal tours to New Zealand isn’t surprising. It’s reflective of the state of the debate that we’re now seeing this sort of incredible claim sneaking in - without much else to say for the monarchy, there’s a tendancy to try and build a fiscal case. But the fiscal case for the monarchy, once again, simply doesn’t stack up for New Zealand.