Tauranga souvenir shop shuts after 22 years

By Joseph Aldridge

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Dwindling tourist numbers have forced the closure of a Tauranga souvenir shop after 22 years of trading in the central city.

Kiwi Magic owners Sandra and Brian Conning said the business had grown steadily until the 2009/2010 financial year. "Last year business was down 32 per cent, this year it's going to be down 50 per cent," Mr Conning said.

"I cannot hold on any longer," said Mrs Conning, who runs the store day-to-day. "I tried but I can't. It's sad to say goodbye, but you have to move on."

The number of tourists coming into the central city over the past few years had dropped noticeably and while the global recession played a part in the decline, there were other reasons as well, the Connings said.

"Tourists just aren't coming into Tauranga like they used to. That's because the cruise ship industry doesn't shuttle their passengers over to Tauranga like they used to, partly because of the authorities limiting the number of coach operators servicing cruise ships," Mr Conning said.

The Connings also identified the high New Zealand dollar as a dampening factor and fewer foreign students in Tauranga. They now plan to set up an online souvenir store.

The owner of a competing store, which operates in Mid-City Mall opposite Kiwi Magic, agreed with the Connings about the reasons for the decline in tourist numbers.

Fancy That owner Bill Campbell said he used to organise a free shuttle service to bring cruise ship passengers to the central city, however, the service had been stymied by Tourism Bay of Plenty who expected a 10 per cent commission on sales. Being a free service, there were no sales and no commission, Mr Campbell said.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Rhys Arrowsmith said tourist numbers in the Western Bay had not dropped significantly over recent years, but he did not have data that measured the number of tourists coming into the central city.

Any operator was welcome to shuttle cruise ship passengers, so long as the operator was "Qualmarked" he said.

"It's nothing to do with commission at all. [Mr Campbell] is welcome to set up his business as long as he adheres to the relevant safety standards, but if he wants us to promote him he must be Qualmarked."

Tourism Bay of Plenty charged a 10 per cent commission on tickets sold at the i-Port, but businesses did not need to sell their tickets at the i-Port, he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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