Influential advisors to help drive KiwiRail tourism growth

KiwiRail has appointed an influential panel of advisors, including Tourism New Zealand chair Kerry Prendergast, former Tourism New Zealand head George Hickton and Tourism Industry Aotearoa Chief Executive Chris Roberts, to drive the next stage of growth in its tourism business.

“We’re thrilled with the calibre of advisors who have agreed to sit on our new Tourism Advisory Committee,” says Acting Chief Executive Todd Moyle.

“This is the first time we have appointed such a committee, and it signals the start of a new era for our tourism business.

“We are already a leading tourism player in New Zealand, hosting more than a million visitors each year. This high-powered expert team will help guide us into the next stage, further unlock KiwiRail’s tourism potential and accelerate our growth.

“There are a number of exciting developments on the horizon for our Great Journeys of New Zealand services.

“Last year, the Government announced an $80 million investment through the Provincial Growth Fund that will allow us to add extra carriages including new premium carriages on the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine rail tourism services and run the Coastal Pacific year-round. We will also upgrade platforms along their routes, invest in international marketing and upgrade our reservation systems.

“We’re moving beyond just providing ships and trains to working with partners to develop tourism packages, attractions and activities that complement our journeys and champion tourism growth in the regions.

“We’re also benefiting from a global rail renaissance, with increased demand for travel where the journey itself becomes part of the experience.

“Tourism is New Zealand’s biggest GDP export earner and it shows no signs of slowing down.

“As one of the country’s largest tourism operators, unlocking our growth potential will boost the sector overall, and spread the benefits throughout the country.

“An example of what we can achieve is on the West Coast, where around 82,000 people currently travel on the TranzAlpine each year to and from Greymouth.  They spend around $46 million on the West Coast and support about 400 jobs.

“With the extended service, this is expected to increase to around 119,000 passengers a year by 2027, with spending increasing to $80 million.”

The new advisory committee will include four KiwiRail executives and three external advisors. They are:

Kerry Prendergast 180x230
Kerry Prendergast

Dame Kerry Prendergast DNZM, CNZM is the former Mayor of Wellington and former Vice-President of Local Government New Zealand and holds an MBA from Victoria University.

Kerry is currently Chair of Tourism New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission.

She is a Director of Oceania Healthcare, Compass Health PHO, and NZ China Council, and a Trustee of the Wellington International Arts Foundation, the New Zealand Community Trust, the Wellington Free Ambulance and the Victoria Foundation. Kerry is also an Advisory Board member of both the Phoenix Football Club and the NZ-US Council Advisory Board.

In January 2019 Kerry became a Dame Companion (DNZM) for services to governance and the community. She was also awarded a CNZM in 2011 for her services to local government, and is a distinguished Alumni of Victoria University. In July 2016 Kerry was also awarded a Lifetime Excellence Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government.

Chris Roberts 180x230
Chris Roberts

Raised and schooled in Whakatane, Chris Roberts studied politics and history at University before beginning his working life as a radio journalist.

He then worked at Parliament, including three years with the Minister of Tourism. That was followed by management roles in the energy sector before joining Tourism New Zealand in 2012 as a General Manager responsible for communications, government and industry relations.

In 2014, Chris moved to the Tourism Industry Association, as Chief Executive. In 2016, the organisation changed its name to Tourism Industry Aotearoa and it continues to play a key role as the peak body for New Zealand’s vibrant and rapidly growing tourism industry.

George Hickton 180x230
George Hickton

George has been involved in a wide variety of businesses during his career and is now actively engaged as a Director for a number of tourism and film related companies. He chairs the boards of Hawkes Bay Tourism, Weta Workshop, the Miramar film group’s property company and Kapiti Island Nature Tours. He is also a past director of Hobbiton Movie Set tours and the Park Rd Post Production facility.

George spent 10 years as Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand and during that time was responsible for establishing New Zealand’s 100% pure marketing campaign.

Prior to joining the tourism industry George was Chief Executive of the New Zealand TAB for four years and was responsible for its major rebranding and expansion into sports betting. He came to the TAB after six years in the core public service, after having established both the New Zealand employment and income support services (now WINZ).

Prior to joining the public service George spent 23 years in the motor industry in a wide variety of roles, his last being Sales and Marketing Director for Honda NZ.

In 2012 he was inducted into the New Zealand Marketing Hall of Fame. In 2016 he was a recipient of the tourism industry’s Sir Jack Newman award for outstanding leadership. He also continues to work on Public Service leadership assignments.