Lonely Planet guide book says Rotorua 'lagging'

By Abigail Hartevelt

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Rotorua has copped criticism in the latest Lonely Planet travel guide, being accused of resting on its laurels and lagging behind places like Tauranga and Taupo.

But some say the comments are outdated and don't take into account the investment made in tourism in the past year.

The newest edition of the New Zealand version of the travel guide, released yesterday, says that despite the city's pervasive eggy odour, Rotorua is one of the most visited tourist spots in the North Island, but some locals reportedly said the city's steady trade has seduced it into resting on its laurels and that socially it lags behind more progressive towns like Tauranga and Taupo.

But Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said it appeared the publishers were unaware of the innovative work by the Rotorua District Council's marketing unit and local tourism operators in recent times. They were unaware of the range of new attractions and tourism product upgrades that had taken place here, he said.

"I think the number of visitors that continue to visit Rotorua shows the tourism market doesn't agree with the guidebook's comments," Mr Winters said.

"Rotorua is definitely not resting on its laurels."

He said there had been a significant amount of investment in the tourism industry over the past year, including $10 million spent at Rainbow Springs on the new Big Splash ride, live bird show and playground; $22 million of development at Rotorua Museum; and the new Rotorua Canopy Tours, Railcruiser and Mountain Bike hub.

The book also talks about "generic motels crowding Fenton St" and says "better and more interesting rooms are away from the main drag".

Mr Winters said accommodation was a matter of choice.

"Motels have always been a popular choice, particularly for our domestic market and especially for family groups. However, some visitors choose different types or more out-of-the-way accommodation in other parts of Rotorua. Isn't it great that in Rotorua you have a real choice?"

The latest edition of the Lonely Planet speaks highly of the new Don Stafford Wing at Rotorua Museum: "The fabulous new Don Stafford Wing houses eight object-rich galleries dedicated to Rotorua's Te Arawa people, featuring woodcarving, flax weaving, jade, interactive audiovisual displays and the stories of the revered World War II 28 Maori Battalion."

Rotorua Association of Motels chairwoman Fiona Suurenbroek said every Rotorua resident should recognise the important contributions visitors make both economically and socially.

"We cannot and should not sit back and let them come to us, we need to take Rotorua to the people, showcasing our culture, heritage and activities that set us apart," she said.

Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan said he believed the criticism was outdated.

"Rotorua has been working really hard and investing a lot."

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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