A proposed cut in funding for Hawke's Bay Tourism could cost the region hundreds of millions of dollars.
Last week Hawke's Bay Regional (HBRC) Council adopted the consultation document for its Long Term Plan, called "Facing Our Future 2018-28", which proposed to cut Hawke's Bay Tourism funding by $1.8 million over three years, meaning a rates reduction of 1.6 per cent.
However, there has been opposition to this by the tourism industry as well as members of the public who have signed an online petition.
Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said while she and the industry appreciated the funding from HBRC and understood the need for a focus on rates and the environment, the proposed cut would be costly.
"Tourism benefits the whole community, everybody wins from tourism."
Visitor spending hit $630 million last year and was predicted to be at $830 million by 2021 but without the funding hundreds of millions of dollars could be lost over time, she said.
Less money would mean Hawke's Bay Tourism's ability to promote the region around the country and overseas would be reduced resulting in fewer visitors and less spending at tourism operators, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and petrol stations.
HBRC chairman Rex Graham said the funding was dramatically increased two years ago in a very close council vote.
This round of funding was also a close vote but the majority of councillors felt the industry should be standing on its own feet like other commercial industries such as pipfruit which doesn't receive any funding.
Hawke's Bay Tourism had done a wonderful job in promoting the region and met all its key performance indicators but councillors decided the ratepayers were not the ones who should be funding the industry, he said.
"They need to look at ways of recouping the money from the industry."
However, Ms Dundas said the tourism industry already contributed considerably to Hawke's Bay Tourism and probably could not contribute much more.
Also, because everyone benefited from tourism, not just industry operators, the previous funding model which equated to $26 per ratepayer was considered fair and in line with other regions, she said.
Hawke's Bay Tourism Industry Association chairman Neil Barber, who sits on the Hawke's Bay Tourism board in this capacity, said he was also grateful for the funding but was disappointed in the decision because it would directly result in a drop in visitors numbers and spending in the region.
"The promotion of the region will dry up."
While the lack of funding wouldn't be apparent immediately things like seasonal promotions would be reduced and the region wouldn't be in the forefront of people's minds.
"A vibrant tourism industry benefits everyone.
"Eventually there is a point if people aren't aware of the region they cease coming."
Art Deco Trust general manager Shane Gorst said Hawke's Bay Tourism had been a major contribution to the growth of his organisation in recent years.
"A lack of funding and the subsequent drop in capacity to continue their important work would have a significant impact on us and the many tourism-based businesses that operate here in Hawke's Bay.
"Local operators would never be able to pick up the tab and deliver anywhere near the volume or quality of promotional activity delivered by Annie and her team and this would undoubtedly lead to a drop in visitor numbers over time."
A petition has been started by a Hawke's Bay resident on change.org asking for the current level of funding to be maintained.
"If Hawke's Bay is not promoted competitively, visitors will stop coming here and choose other destinations which will result in a significantly reduced visitor spend, less jobs and less business growth," the petition said.
The petition can be accessed here: