Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Accommodation 'absolutely booked out' for AIMS Games

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THEY'RE COMING: More than 9000 entries from 271 registered school have been received for this year's games.PHOTO/FILE
THEY'RE COMING: More than 9000 entries from 271 registered school have been received for this year's games.PHOTO/FILE

This year's AIMS Games is set to attract a record number of athletes and pump millions of dollars into the Bay economy - with most accommodation in Tauranga booked out months in advance for the event.

Tournament director Vicki Semple said the number of intermediate students for the event, which runs in September, had soared from 8011 in 2015 to a projected 9300 entries this year from the 271 schools registered which was "nothing short of extraordinary".

The growth was amazing although it had been planned for, she said.

"From the moment the NZCT AIMS Games ends each year, we're straight into planning for the next year's event, liaising with schools and getting a feel for the expected numbers coming.

"That way, we can engage as many accommodation providers as possible, from hotels, motels and camping grounds to local marae, sports clubs and schools, as well as hundreds of private homes ... it all comes about through a city opening its arms to all those visitors for a week."

Schools would travel from as far afield as the Cook Islands and Tonga while BMX, canoe slalom and futsal had been introduced as new sports with 20 codes now contended, she said.

Former Motel Association of New Zealand Tauranga president Bruce Rutherford said some groups were now looking as far afield as Matamata to book accommodation.

He said the event was a shot in the arm for the local accommodation sector.

"It's absolutely booked out as far as I'm aware and some people are going to Matamata."

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty/Waikato regional manager Alan Sciascia said the AIMS Games was important because "every bed in the region is filled up with people".

But it also flowed to other sectors with people eating meals, doing activities and visiting retail operators, he said.

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Tauranga City Council sponsorship and leverage manager Sarah Lewis said a comprehensive evaluation was conducted every two years - in 2014 an analysis of the event showed it contributed $1.96 million to the economy but there was significant growth year-on-year.

Figures showed in 2014 the event received $30,000 in funding compared to $60,000 in 2015 and $60,000 in 2016 as well as $10,000 for a free bus service in association with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, she said.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said the AIMS Games was one of Tauranga's "home-grown" premiere events, bringing more than 12,000 visitors to the city.

The council was proud to support Tauranga's best performing and largest junior sporting event of its kind in Australasia for children aged 11-13, he said.

"The media coverage is extensive and is poised to increase in 2016 to a broader audience through live streaming. It highlights the capacity and capability of the city to host major events of this scale to a wide New Zealand audience in the off-peak season."

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the timing of the AIMS Games meant a considerable amount of money was injected into the region at a traditionally quiet time.

"It is a perfect fit for the city and would not work so well in other places that are not as easy for groups of people to move around."

Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kath Low said the AIMS Games was a flagship event that put Tauranga in the limelight as a great option for other potential large scale sporting events.

The organisation was actively encouraging visitor arrivals in the shoulder months, she said.

"Domestic tourism makes up approximately 80 per cent of our visitor mix and the AIMS Games, being an event of national scale, plays a significant role in contributing to our visitor economy."

But one of the biggest challenges facing the region with large scale events was the lack of accommodation, she said.

"Tauranga City Council's long term plan, and the 'Creating Tauranga's Civic Heart' project aims to attract support for another hotel to the city centre."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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