With the so-called "travel bubble" between Australia and New Zealand popped due to a second wave of COVID-19, Tourism New Zealand is trying a more virtual approach to marketing the country.
A new campaign is targeting Australia's massive gaming community by promoting New Zealand as one big "open world" game.
Play NZ sees some of the country's spectacular landscapes transformed into a "gameified walk-through", emulating the experience of playing a video game while becoming a virtual tourist. On board is actor Julian Dennison (Hunt For the Wilderpeople, Deadpool 2) as a guide, who narrates the videos.
Tourism New Zealand is partnering with Twitch, the streaming platform focused on gaming, for the new campaign. Lockdowns and social distancing has seen the popularity of Twitch explode in recent months, with hours watched increasing by 57 per cent.
One of Twitch's Australian stars, Kathleen Belsten AKA Loserfruit, with 1.8 million followers on the platform and 2.7 million on YouTube, is also part of the project.
On Tuesday night, Belsten ran a Twitch livestream exploring the content as thousands tuned in.
While the campaign only re-creates the look and feel of video games, without being an actual game itself, the videos still create a first-person view of various tourism highlights of New Zealand. Several of the videos are shot in 360 degrees, allowing viewers to look around the environment.
There's plenty of Kiwi and gamer humour included, like mistimed paddling in the whitewater rafting experience coming up as "Stink" or the campaigns Uncharted-style protagonist, Skip Hogan (another joke), getting stuck crouching or running into trees.
Tourism New Zealand is aiming to create inspiration for young Australian travellers, specifically those aimed 25 to 39, so that when a travel bubble does eventuate, they will be keen to revisit these virtual experiences in real life.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flagged earlier this month that a trans-Tasman travel bubble could be created between New Zealand and individual Australian states, provided those states keep the COVID-19 outbreak under control and their own borders remain closed.
Tourism Research Australia figures show Australians spent $3.5 billion in New Zealand last year. A more recent report by consultant Ernst & Young Australia estimated that a travel bubble opening could deliver between $1.8 billion and $3.7 billion to the New Zealand economy.
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.