Mount i Site 'expensive bus shelter'

By John Cousinsnews@bayofplentytimes.co.nz

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A petition has been launched by Tauranga tourism watchdog Bob Smith to try to pressure the Bay's tourism agency to reopen the Mount Maunganui i-Site.

The closure of the i-Site five months ago by Tourism Bay of Plenty sparked angry reactions from some tourism operators and councillors who said it left New Zealand's top holiday destination without an i-Site branded visitor information centre.

The brochures service and tourism bookings were switched to the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park at the base of Mauao.

Mr Smith said the harm done by the closure of the i-Site was shocking. He obtained signatures from several "angry" cruise ship passengers who were mooching around outside the old i-Site in Salisbury Ave wondering why it was not open.

He said the new wharfside i-Port for disembarking cruise ship passengers was closed by midday and those who chose to stay around the Mount, and did not leave their ship until well after everyone else had left on buses, did not have handy access to information.

His petition called for the reopening of the i-Site, noting how the council had agreed in May to pay Tourism BOP $285,000 to provide visitor information services, followed by the Mount i-Site closing in June and the opening of the i-Port in October; the i-Port was not available to the public.

Rhys Arrowsmith, the general manager of Tourism Bay of Plenty, responded that the former Mount i-Site had been losing money, losing its relevance to visitors and was effectively becoming an expensive bus shelter.

The opening of the i-Port was in response to the big growth in the cruise ship industry and the need to put resources where that growth was.

He explained that the i-Port was open for the initial influx of people off the ships.

It usually took about three hours for the ships to empty out, and the i-Port was there for that intensive time. For instance, it could be open, depending on the tides, from 6am to 11am.

Mr Arrowsmith said they would like to reopen an i-Site at the Mount, but not until an affordable and logical location had been found.

"There is no appetite for Tourism Bay of Plenty to reopen the i-Site in the old building."

Asked whether the i-Site could form part of a future Mount mainstreet office in the shopping centre, he said they were prepared to partner with any aligned organisation to achieve an i-Site.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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