Annie Dundas is friendly, funny and informal. If this sounds like a
cliched start for someone in the travel industry, let it be made clear now
that the new PR manager, UK and Europe, for Tourism New Zealand, does not
have the aura of a cheery package holiday rep - New Zealanders, like the
British, set a lot of store by dry wit and are not prone to
This is the woman, after all, who has spent four years in LA trying to
persuade Americans to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud and is now
moving to England to head the PR effort for the UK and Europe.
Affecting a perfect Californian accent, she says: ’Can I drive my rental
car from Sydney to Auckland?’ She raises her eyebrows in mock disbelief;
this was not an atypical question during her tenure. The fact that the
Tasman Sea lies between the two cities did not ruffle the questioners.
Another American query: ’New Zealand? Oh God, is that in Scandanavia?’ You
begin to see what she was up against.
’Australia has a higher profile,’ she continues somewhat ruefully.
’Crocodile Dundee did more for the country than virtually anything. We
need a cult movie.’
This is tricky: New Zealand is mainly known for earnest films about the
subjugation of Maoris. These are not a big draw. The fact that The Lord of
the Rings is currently being filmed there may attract new-agers but few
real holidaymakers. Government-backed Tourism NZ will promote the
destinations where filming takes place, but surely this only goes so
Come to think of it, one of Hollywood’s hottest current faces is Kiwi-born
Gladiator Russell Crowe, so surely he could help?
Apparently not. ’He says he feels Australian,’ she sighs. ’But he supports
the All Blacks.’ That might be a plus as New Zealand does have arguably
the strongest rugby team in the world. But they don’t play much rugger in
In the UK it is, she says, an easier sell. People know where New Zealand
is for a start. Also, since there are about 35,000 Kiwis living here, word
of mouth is strong. So strong, in fact, that 180,000 Brits made the trip
last year - not bad for a country of 3.7 million people. Backpackers and
45-plus married couples make up a large part of New Zealand’s tourist
’We want to promote it as a quality destination,’ Dundas says. ’It’s a
clean, natural environment.’
Add to that the fact there are no deadly indigenous creatures and (it is
said) there is no safer place to hitchhike on the planet, and you have a
genuinely welcoming country.
There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s also a long-haul, of
course. New Zealand lies 12,000 miles away from the UK and a daunting
distance from virtually anywhere else in the world. The sense of isolation
is strong - which is probably why every young Kiwi finishing university
tends to travel for a couple of years or so.
Dundas is no exception: before university she spent a year teaching at a
Sussex preparatory school; after graduating she travelled and has done her
share of backpacking: India, Canada, Cuba. This is, of course, useful work
experience; it’s hard to promote a country if you don’t know how other
countries do it.
When she went to LA, New Zealand’s PR drive ’had been lagging’. A large
part of her job was to ensure that PR was fully integrated into the
marketing mix and she has come to London with a similar brief. The
concentration - as with M&C Saatchi’s ’100 per cent pure New Zealand’ ad
campaign - is on the broadsheet supplements and glossies. Air New Zealand
and Qantas are ’generous’ with seats for journalists, she says, which is
good for getting hacks to make the trip south.
But success will not just be measured in column inches; increases in
arrivals and foreign exchange earnings will also be recorded by the
government and it’s going well so far, she says.
Since scientists could probably find traces of a travel gene in most New
Zealanders’ DNA, a career in tourism is not surprising. But PR itself is
also in Dundas’ blood: her father ran an agency in the capital,
A former Tourism NZ colleague Alison Ross says: ’She was probably
networking in her nappies,’ she says. According to Ross, Dundas is also a
massive sports fan: ’She can hit the meanest golf ball this side of St.
’Any good Kiwi loves sport,’ Dundas confirms with a laugh that means she’s
deadly serious. She enjoys tennis, is a ’mad’ skier and, of course,
follows the All Blacks.
But if the image of the outdoor Kiwi woman seems too pat, it’s not just
tourism, PR and sport. Part of the reason for coming to London was the
theatre, she says. So, will she be queuing for Les Mis or Phantom? ’I’m
not the musical queen,’ Dundas confesses instantly. ’I’d far rather see
1995 International media co-ordinator, Tourism New Zealand
1996 PR manager, US and Canada, Tourism New Zealand
2000 PR manager, UK and Europe, Tourism New Zealand.