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

Tourism operators call for off-season support

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BON VOYAGE: Tauranga's last cruise ship of the season Insignia was in port yesterday, after 74 ships berthed in Tauranga during the 2015/16 season bringing 158,278 passengers to explore the Bay .PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK
BON VOYAGE: Tauranga's last cruise ship of the season Insignia was in port yesterday, after 74 ships berthed in Tauranga during the 2015/16 season bringing 158,278 passengers to explore the Bay .PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK

Local operators are calling for Bay of Plenty Tourism to focus more on promoting the region during the off season - and less on the cruise ship market.

Concerns have been raised after Tourism New Zealand's decision earlier this week to pump 100 per cent of its $80 million marketing budget into the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring because it felt there was already enough summer visitors.

Figures from Tourism Bay of Plenty showed it would receive about $925,000 from Tauranga City Council, $190,000 from Western Bay District Council and $84,000 from Whakatane District Council or $1.19 million collectively for 2016/17 - up from $1.09 million in 2015/16 - in funding.

We need to collaborate across accommodation, retail, hospitality and tourism attractions to provide a complete proposition for all our visitors, across the year.
Tourism Bay of Plenty's Kristin Dunne

Newly appointed chief executive Kristin Dunne said she could not confirm plans or future initiatives because its budgets, annual plan or statement of intent had not been presented to its board or funders.

Tourism Bay of Plenty was working with Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand and the Tauranga City Council on major events and campaigns to specifically target the shoulder seasons, she said.

Ms Dunne said she could not talk about the past but strengthening relationships across the industry was a key focus.

"Whilst cruise is an important and very visible part of our industry, it only makes up five per cent of all visitor spend to the region. We need to collaborate across accommodation, retail, hospitality and tourism attractions to provide a complete proposition for all our visitors, across the year."

Motel Association of New Zealand former Tauranga president Bruce Rutherford said, in his view, Bay of Plenty Tourism had not done enough to promote the region as a winter destination.

"They tend to stick to cruise ships and stuff that they know is going to bring in mega bucks and they shouldn't because it's going to bring in mega bucks anyway. Their focus should shift to leaner periods."

First Days of Summer at Mount Maunganui are always popular. Photo/file
First Days of Summer at Mount Maunganui are always popular. Photo/file

Mount Mainstreet Association chairwoman Jane Debenham said it recognised more than two years ago summer looked after itself and had been organising winter events to attract people.

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia agreed and said during winter "you have a lot more capacity to cope with increases".

Events were also crucial to Tauranga "you only need to look at other centres like Taupo and Rotorua who do very well".

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the key issue was to maximise "all the infrastructure, be it motels, tourist attractions or hospitality, in the shoulder seasons and quieter times", to avoid the peak boom-and-bust scenario. The council had raised its contribution to Tauranga's event portfolio and those held on the "shoulder season certainly do get a stronger focus than ones in the middle of the peak season".

Council records revealed in 2015/16 it spent $791,415 funding 37 events compared with $649,282 in 2014/15 on 32 events - and its New Year's Eve and the summer programme was the largest event that received $250,000.

Strategic and city events manager Pip Loader said some of Tauranga city's most significant events that the council invested in were the AIMS Games, the Jazz Festival and Tauranga Arts Festival.

"This year, though we are trying to attract events occurring in the shoulder and winter months to attract visitors and provide events for our community outside of the summer season." More than $7.7 million would be invested into events over the next 10 years.

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