Tourism guru: Food offering needs lift (+video)

By Matthew Martin

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A visiting tourism industry expert says Rotorua has got everything in place to become a world leading destination, but the city does need to improve on its "housekeeping" to keep visitors here longer.

World-renowned tourism consultant Professor Terry Stevens has been in Rotorua this week after being commissioned by the Rotorua Lakes Council to compare Rotorua against 12 similar international destinations to help identify why they were successful.

Professor Stevens is the founder and managing director of multi-award winning international tourism consultancy Stevens & Associates and in recent years has done a range of benchmarking studies at many tourism destinations around the world.

During his visit Professor Stevens met with more than 190 industry representatives.

"It's very straight forward, you have a starting point that many destinations around the world would rip off their right arm for - be it the culture, the landscape, and be it some of the emerging businesses - that are up there with the best. "For a visitor all these things are very compelling and very appealing, the biggest challenge is when I'm here is getting me to stay a bit longer and spend a bit more. That's when the rest of the act comes into play.

"Where you need to up the game is making sure the rest of it [tourism offering] is up with the lead act."

Professor Stevens said the one major area where Rotorua needed to lift its game was in the food and beverage area and the urban streetscape.

"Definitely the food and drink offer needs enhancing, I also think a few more nice touches within the urban realm would also help, but much of what we are talking about is just simple housekeeping."

He said relatively few tourist destinations had joined up all the dots and the keys to Rotorua's success were obvious - culture, geothermal and mountain biking.

"The story of the culture is entwined with the story of the landscape, you have an excellent range of outdoor activities and those can be combined with the culture.

"The story of the [Mokoia] island and the lake here are the glue ... and if you get the housekeeping right I'll want to stay here much longer.

"The platform for the future here is exceptionally bright, there's lots of talent, there's some very clear leadership emerging, you've got politicians that want change and the time is right for a new model.

"You have a bloody good team out there, all it needs is some inspired coaching," he said.

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the professor's visit had been provocative and refreshing.

"We can get on with things here very quickly, so we are perfectly poised to hear this message and not feel threatened by it and keep pushing change and not lose our nerve.

"What's good for the visitor is good for the locals ... the time is right to get our strategy together," she said.

But Rotorua branch president of the Restaurant Association of NZ, Sharon Wallace, defended Rotorua's hospitality offering.

"It all depends on where he went," she said.

"We've got so many different places to choose from and are spoilt for choice.

"I would beg to differ, but it's a shame I did not know he was in town."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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