The Evolution of New Zealand Tourism
Te Kukuwhatanga Hoahoa
Whakaahua o Ahumahi Tāpoi ki Aotearoa
June 14, 2018
Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design
Te Whare Takiura o Wikiriwhi
24 Balfour Road, Auckland 1052, New Zealand
Produced as part of BFA(GDes) coursework
4711 Art & Design Theory contextual paper
Lecturer: Rebecca Steedman
Aotearoa New Zealand being an island nation, geologically away from the rest
of the world, tourism is one of our main economical sources. New Zealand is
the first country in the world to establish a government department dedicated
to promoting itself as a tourist destination. This essay is going to explore the
design evolutions from the early ages of the department till present day and
how the agency portrays us as a nation.
The New Zealand government did have publicity events before the
establishment of a dedicated agency, earliest records show efforts from 1837
from the London-based New Zealand Company promoting the Cook’s
voyages and emigration to Aotearoa. Among the best known of nineteenth-
century New Zealand imageries are done by some of the company
draughtsman Charles Heaphy. (Canterbury Museum, 2016, p. 13)
Charles Heaphy, 1820-1881. Mt Egmont from the southward. [September? 1840].
Set-up in February 1901, Department of Tourist and Health Resorts was the
first government department specifically to develop the business of tourism.
The department is later known as Commerce & Tourist Dept., Tourist &
Publicity Dept., New Zealand Tourism Dept., New Zealand Tourism Board,
and now as Tourism New Zealand; colloquially they are all known as the
Government Tourist Department. (Tourism New Zealand, 2001, p. 8)
When the department was established, New Zealand was gaining
increasing numbers of international visitors through our thermal and scenic
wonders. Sites such as Rotorua, Mt Cook, Milford Track, Whanganui River,
Waitomo Caves, and various hunting and fishing activities were popular
amongst visitors. (Ibid) Nineteenth-century New Zealand was lacking the
complete cities and resorts the European travellers were used to. What we
offer were romanticized nature scenes, and the Māori people whose lives
were seen as novel and intriguing exotic to the visitors. (McClure, 2012, p. 20)
Alongside promoting and gaining tourist numbers to New Zealand, one
of the principal duties of the Government Tourist Department was to provide
assistance to travellers in planning itineraries suitable for the individuals, and
to make reservations free of charge. (Dept. of Tourist & Publicity, 1935)
Promoting New Zealand as a tourist destination was not easy as we were
away from the rest of the world. Two main questions needed to be solved by
the government tourist department: “What are the selling points to be
promoted?” And, “what media would be best to get the message across?”
(Pollack, 2012, p. 34)
The first one was in a way straight forward and to promote us as
uniquely Kiwi, but then we would also be competing with the world known
historical and culture sights such as the Roman Colosseum and The Great
Pyramid of Gaza. It meant knowing how to convince the traveller the
extraordinary efforts to visit New Zealand. (Ibid.)
Media wise, at a time before television and radio even existed, it meant
spreading the word through newspapers, magazines, brochures, and posters.
Posters were the perfect medium for tourism campaigns. Posters printed
from the late nineteenth-century offered vibrant full-colour graphics. In many
cases, the posters were led by the styles of each era – ornate Art Nouveau
and Belle Époque from 1890-1910, Art Deco developing through from the
1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in
Paris. Using the newly refined process of lithography process prints could be
done in palettes that were new to printed materials and could be achieved in
large print runs. (Ibid., p. 35)
Artist unknown: Mountain daisy,
Southern Alps, New Zealand. [ca 1950]
Leonard Cornwall Mitchell: Mt Egmont,
8,260 ft. New Zealand. [1934-1937]
Alongside printed materials, publicity media such as slides, radio talks,
lectures, window displays, and exhibition displays were also produced. The
16mm films for private screenings – use of lectures – were very popular and
over 1400 copies were produced between 1935 and 1940. Window displays
were arranged in conjunction with travel firms; and photographs, maps, Māori
curios, dioramas were utilized to attract attention. (Dept. of Internal Affairs,
1940, p. 70)
Small format posters and book adverts relied heavily on text
description and black-and-white illustrations. The Department’s Cable
address (unique name for destination for sending telegraph messages)
“MAORILAND” appeared at the bottom of the pages, more like today’s use of
social media handles. (Canterbury Museum, 2016, p. 13)
Department of Tourist and Health Resorts: New Zealand or Ao-teā-roa.  p. 279
Alongside nature and the scenic views New Zealand offered, Māori culture
was a strong selling point for Aotearoa. An early insight into the evolution of
New Zealand’s national identity is offered by the choice of “Maoriland”. The
term made its first appearance in the 1860s as an alternative name for New
Zealand. (Wolfe, 2012, p. 28)
Rotorua was probably the best-known place for Māori culture.
European tourists expected to see Māori to live in a romantic past, rather than
succeed in business. Partially due to the misleading campaigns done up by
the department. In the early 1900s the government built a model village to
cater to the tourist’s expectations of a “primitive” Māori lifestyle. Māori had
minimal interest in being viewed as a tourist spectacle, thus the “living village”
remained vacant. On the other hand, Māori tour guides still remained an
important avenue of work. (McClure, 2010, p. 2)
Discovering that 20th-century Māori did not routinely wear flax piupiu,
woven headbands or feather cloaks came as a considerable surprise
and disappointment to overseas tourists. They had been enticed to New
Zealand’s premier tourism regions with images of wistful wahine posed
alluringly among the geysers, invariably dressed in costumes that Māori
had abandoned for everyday wear in the previous century. (Derby,
2012, p. 48)
Early New Zealand publicity materials favoured stylistic images of
Māori, often plump and comical, and uses iconic symbols such as the heitiki.
Heitiki are representations of ancestral beings, traditionally carved on
greenstone pendants, and have always held strong spiritual connotations for
Māori and the most prized possession of the rangatira. However, it was
treated by designers as a versatile graphic device and often used in a comical
way. (Derby, 2012, p. 51) (Reed, 1974, p. 58)
Leslie George McCullough:
New Zealand, the ski-land. [1950s]
Marcus King: New Zealand, South
Pacific wonderland [Pohutu Geyser].
Popular New Zealand tourist destinations were well known due to images
being widely circulated since the 1920s. Photographers played a significant
role in shaping the tourism publicity. Photographs were essential and widely
used for graphic artists in producing the tourism posters. (Hancox, 2012, p.
Photography was a cheap distribution method and the effective
propagation of images of the colonial landscape helped the development of
tourism. New Zealanders seldom saw landscape paintings as they were not
readily made, but through photographic illustrations we discovered the
beauties of our country. Multiple copies of landscape photographs were
readily circulated via view albums. (Ibid., pp. 77-78)
By the 1880s, professional photographers, such as Burton Brothers of
Dunedin, supplied thousands of photographs, many of them for the
burgeoning tourism industry. Their 1884 catalogue listed 3,000 different
photographs of New Zealand scenery. (Ibid., p. 78)
During magic lantern performances – popular entertainment dating
back to the mid-17th century – well-known stories were told through colourful
hand-painted slides which were projected into a darkened room. The
photographic lantern slide has a positive monochrome image on a glass
plate, some were hand coloured with watercolour tints, and when projected it
had a unique rich and luminous look to them. (Ibid)
James McDonald: Waimangu in Eruption. Galatin dry plate negatives. [c 1902-3]
The introduction of photolithography in the mid twentieth-century New
Zealand means photographs could easily be reproduced in a large volume.
The posters produced then were heavily influenced by the International
Typographic Style (also known as, Swiss Typography). The designers utilized
grid systems and they produced the posters as if the photography were an
The current tourism campaign – 100% PURE NEW ZEALAND – launched in
July 1999 is the longest running tourism campaign in the world. It is often
held up by the industry globally as an example of success. (Tourism New
Zealand, 2016, p. 3)
When M. and C. Saatchi took over in March 1999, the timetable for
initiating a new global campaign was tight. Creative ideas and strategies
had to be formulated by April, for ‘if you miss July you’re dead’ in
catching Northern Hemisphere travellers booking for the year ahead. M.
and C. Saatchi sent a strategy team from Britain and a creative team
from Sydney, and asked their offices around the world for ideas.
M. and C. Saatchi chose their theme after research overseas
showed that ‘the NZ Way’ lacked any emotional appeal; New Zealand
appeared to be a boring expanse of green hills dotted with sheep. Yet
people who visited the country came away invigorated by their
experiences. This sense of invigoration became the key to the
campaign. The ‘new’ in New Zealand could be used to convey both the
feeling of an undiscovered land and the advantages of modernity.
Maurice Saatchi described his approach: ‘As the world becomes
increasingly “manufactured”, the world’s nations have become more
and more homogeneous. It’s becoming more and more impossible to
and meaningful differentiation. (McClure, 2004, pp. 284-5)
The strong tagline – 100% Pure New Zealand – was aligned with
images of sweeping landscapes. (McClure, 2010, p. 6) Just like in the 1880s,
the tourist department kept a large in-depth collection of images for use to
promote New Zealand as a tourist destination. The database included images
of landscapes, people, culture, and activities.
Tourism New Zealand: 100% pure New Zealand. Hauraki Gulf, Auckland. 
Tourism New Zealand has been utilizing technology to put us ahead of
other national tourism campaigns. The website www.newzealand.com was
integrated into the campaign. With a limited budget the department utilized
digital media such as podcasts, mobile phones, and electrical billboards. It
also bought out the entire front page of YouTube for 24 hours. (McClure,
2010, p. 6)
Film productions such as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies
have renewed the sense of New Zealand as a realm of fantasy and re-sparked
the romanticism fostered by nineteenth-century tourists, artists, and writers.
The films have displayed New Zealand’s spectacular country settings to the
international audiences and reminded us that journeys begin with the things
dreams are made of. (McClure, 2004, p. 291)
“New Zealand” is a book I produced in response to the early tourism posters
produced by the Government Tourist Department. It is a curation of posters
bounded together on the top short edge. The book is aimed towards getting
New Zealanders to be more aware of how they were being portrayed.
The individual leaves are perforated so they can be teared off in a
calendar format and used as an individual poster like a novelty item. The
cover has been typeset to Leonard Mitchell’s lettering. Mitchell, alongside
Marcus King, are one of the two most prominent artists for the department.
The pages are printed on high gloss paper as most of the posters were
displayed behind glass windows or are currently inside glass picture frames.
This essay explored the early New Zealand tourism posters through to the
contemporary 100% Pure New Zealand campaign. These campaigns
generally do not run within New Zealand thus this essay sheds a light on how
we as a nation are being portrayed internationally.
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