How much did Tourism NZ spend on social media influencers in 2023?

TNZ said it typically uses influencers to target the independent professional segment aged 25-54 years. Photo / 123rf

Tourism New Zealand spent almost a quarter of a million dollars on social media influencers in 2023, an Official Information Request has revealed.

The final cost of $248,837 covered travel costs (air and ground), production costs, agency fees, events, other inmarket costs and influencer fees, stated the organisation, which is responsible for promoting travel to New Zealand.

Most influencers had their travel costs covered but were not paid to visit and produce content apart from one group of three Singaporean influencers.

These three social media personalities were paid an additional amount to create and post content about New Zealand to their social media followers.

This group, who were taken around the South Island between September and October, included Munah Bagharib, Aiken Chia and Nicole Liel, who appeared to be taken around Christchurch and Kaikoura together.

Munah Bagharib (AKA the ‘wizard’)

A former YouTube star, Munah Bagharib currently works as an actress, social media influencer and (according to her Instagram bio) Wizard. Disappointingly, it appears the latter title is more of a joke rather than a sign she’s in the running to be Christchurch’s next Wizard.

Nonetheless, she does appear to have a magical ability to gain an audience, with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok.

While TNZ would not disclose the influencers’ content obligations, Bagharib shared several posts about New Zealand, including a video of the 9-hour bus ride from Christchurch to Queenstown and her trek with a llama in Kaikoura as well as a carousel post of her posing at a farm. Bagharib also included a “highlights” reel from her New Zealand trip.

“The land of never ending experiences! If there’s one trip you need to make, it’s this one!” she wrote in the caption, before listing four favourite experiences including He Puna Teimoana Hot Pools, Greytown Honey and Star Safari.

In terms of production value, Bagharib’s content isn’t that different to the videos or posts a traveller would make for fun. However, her value lies largely in her audience, with her New Zealand videos gaining between 11,500 and 138,000 views on Instagram.

Aiken Chia

Aiken Chia, however, is a highly talented video producer, who created several high-quality reels of his activities in New Zealand to his 145,000 followers.

Promising “top-tier recommendations from all around the world” in his Instagram bio, the 34-year-old regularly posts videos of places to visit, eat or stay in countries around the world.

A series of saved stories showed Aiken, with Bagharib in Christchurch where they went on an Amiki Cultural Food Tour, visited the hotpools at He Puna Taimoana, and rode a charter helicopter to Waipara Springs.

In Wellington, Aiken stayed at Naumi Hotels, rode the Wellington cable car and visited Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne.

A reel, posted after the trip, also reviewed the group’s activities in Kaikoura, such as trekking with llamas, riding a private helicopter and landing on Mt Fyffe and dining at Hapuku Kitchen.

Chia also posted two videos reviewing his stay at a PurePod, which he had arranged independently.

Nicole Liel

The third member, Nicole Liel, is in her mid-20s but already has 192,000 TikTok followers and 1.6M “likes” on the platform, where she regularly posts life updates.

During one TikTok video, Liel shows viewers what she did during her first day in New Zealand.

“We went over to this place where they spent 10 million dollars to rebuild the agriculture and everything,” she said, showing footage of the Avon River.

After this, they went to a bar where the food was “mega slay” and after that, they went to Kmart because Liel realised “we were going to the mountain” and she didn’t have any winter clothes.

Why did Tourism NZ use influencers?

The short answer is that, well, it works.

“In some markets, where there is low knowledge of New Zealand, they can be used to help gain wider reach and top of mind awareness with a large number of people,” said Tourism New Zealand in a statement.

“In more mature markets, they can be used as a credible source of information to support authentic storytelling.”

According to TNZ, the organisation worked with an agency to research top-performing influencers. They then selected those best positioned to influence key target markets provided they were genuinely willing to partner with TNZ.

Did the influencer activity work?

TNZ stated there was “strong evidence” to suggest influencers were an effective advertising channel, something it has seen in post-campaign analysis.

“Following the use of social media advocates Tourism New Zealand contracts independent research to conduct PR evaluation research to help measure the success of the partnership,” it stated.

The evaluation measures campaign recognition, and the content’s ability to build positive perceptions of New Zealand and generate interest to visit.

In 2023, TNZ spent $248,837 on influencer activity. The Equivalent Advertising Value (EAV), which represents the cost of buying media coverage with a similar impact was $42,673,581, TNZ stated.

The organisation also expects to see further results from the activity in the coming months.

As for the paid influencers, TNZ invested $28,096 and the content produced had an EAV of $1.5m. TNZ would not disclose how much each influencer was paid or what they were contracted to create on the grounds it was commercially sensitive.

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