Fewer tourists visiting the Bay

By Lawrence Gullery

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Hawke's Bay's poor winter visitor figures are fuelling speculation of a rival regional tourism organisation (RTO) being set up by Napier moteliers to turn the industry around.

The combined commercial and private household visitor accommodation figures showed there were 2195 extra guest nights, making just a 0.1 per cent increase for the year-end to August 2012.

The figures were presented by Hawke's Bay Tourism as part of its first quarterly report to its funder, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, in Napier yesterday.

In the breakdown, the commercial accommodation monitor showed Hawke's Bay's guest nights were down 27.8 per cent in August 2012 compared to the same month in 2011 - meaning 15,845 fewer visitor nights in the region.

The private household accommodation monitor estimated 35,359 visitors to the region who stayed 146,523 nights during August 2012 which was an increase of 4300 guest nights on the same month in 2011.

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the overall downturn reflected what was happening in the market nationally.

"We are seeing private accommodation holding but the commercial sector is suffering, which is a reflection that Kiwis are not travelling domestically and of the tough economic times.

"August is not a tourism month for Hawke's Bay and the figures are always pretty low in that respect."

Councillor Alan Dick said he understood there was a group "promoting a separate RTO" in Napier because of the poor commercial accommodation monitor results which had a significant impact on Napier's visitor market.

"My question is, is there anything particular about the significant decrease in commercial accommodation visitors into Napier as opposed to the region, and how do we get out of the hole?"

Ms Dundas said there were questions around the validity of the figures the group of Napier moteliers was using to gauge visitor numbers and the health of the industry.

"It's very difficult to take a commercial set of statistics and use them in that way because it's not going to give you the full picture.

"We can't just keep focussing on commercial accommodation as the measure."

The Ministry of Economic Development was looking at removing the commercial accommodation monitor and replacing it with a new system.

"What I would say is that we are in difficult economic times and the industry nationally is not performing. We want to grow numbers of people coming into Hawke's Bay and that's what we are endeavouring to do."

Ms Dundas said Napier's tourism organisation, its iSite office would provide a fuller picture of the number of people visiting the city.

Councillor Neil Kirton said the regional council may have to consider investing more than the $850,000 a year it currently puts into Hawke's Bay Tourism for it to achieve its goals.

"Currently the organisation has very little to go on," Mr Kirton said. "It's treading water, keeping afloat and needs to have major investment."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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