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Has New Zealand just solved COVID-19 tourism?

With borders closed for international travel, New Zealand is inviting Australians to come and virtually play in a never-before-seen tourism experience. 


With Twitch seeing a 57% increase in hours watched since social distancing began, New Zealand has turned the country’s picturesque landscape into a gamified walk-through. Aptly named PLAY NZ, virtual tourists are guided through an open world experience by the familiar Kiwi voice of narrator Julian Dennison.   



Julian Dennison said, “This is the first virtual walk-through made by a country and I’m excited to take visitors on a journey through New Zealand. In the play-through, I guide viewers through experiences that I’ve done myself...except being a soaring hawk, obviously.”


Virtual visitors will be able to follow the avatar named ‘Skip Hogan’ as he traverses the North Island’s Rotorua, encountering Kiwi locals along the way. Skip faces a series of adventure challenges, from mountain biking through the Redwoods Forest to white water rafting down Okere Falls, before coming face to face with music artist William Waiirua. 


Andrew Waddel, Tourism New Zealand’s General Manager Australia, said while it appears to be a fantasy, the locations and experiences are real. 


"We’ve created an immersive content hub online, where a further 18 VR experiences can be discovered and booked in the real world. Ranging from Wildwire Wanaka to EcoZip Adventures and AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown, you’re manning the controls," he said.


"The genesis of this idea came from strong insight – that being the rise of gaming amongst Australians and gaming’s expansion into storytelling and entertainment."


"Never before has a country opened its virtual borders and created a lifelike immersive experience that feels like an actual game."


"Ahead of the trans-Tasman travel zone, keeping Australians engaged virtually is the most exciting offering in tourism right now. This is why we’ve launched PLAY NZ – to excite and inspire future travellers," said Waddel. 


PLAY NZ would not be complete without a live gamer walk-through from Australian gaming heavyweight Loserfruit, using the power of Twitch.


With over 4.7 million followers across Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, Loserfruit said, “PLAY NZ squares up against fan favourites for its ability to mimic in-game play.”


"Twitch is revolutionising entertainment through its massive and highly engaged community of creators, fans and interactive tools," said Ricky Chanana, Head of Sales AUNZ at Twitch. 


“PLAY NZ combines engagement and interaction to create an experience for people to see what travel can look like in the streaming space, and we're excited to see more opportunities for this in the future – even beyond the trans-Tasman travel zone."


The brand building campaign aims to increase the number of Australians considering a New Zealand holiday, targeting a millennial audience 25 to 39 years – renowned for seeking new experiences and likely ‘first to fly’ when borders open.


View the hero film HERE.


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Published: 29 July 2020

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