Top-end accommodation needed in city

By john.maslin@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

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Whanganui sorely needs some top end accommodation if it's to strengthen its foothold in the growing tourism market.

That was a message delivered to the Whanganui District Council this week when it heard submissions to its 2016-17 Annual Plan.

Claire Wickham, chairwoman of Visit Whanganui, the council's tourism promotions arm, said she understood Whanganui and Partners has had discussions with a hotel investor and it was something that needed to be advanced.

Her comment was backed up by council chief executive officer Kym Fell who said Whanganui lacked high end accommodation. Mr Fell can speak from experience because his career included time as general manager of the Grand International Hotel chain's hotels in Adelaide and Tasmania as well as the Scenic Circle hotel chain in New Zealand.

But he said compared to hotel standards in most other cities, Whanganui's offering was "pretty poor" and it meant the tourism industry here would continue to struggle because of it.

Mayor Annette Main said it was a issue that needed addressing.

"We've been approached to hold major conferences here but simply couldn't bid for them because we aren't able to offer the quality of accommodation guests would have expected," Ms Main said.

Apart from the matter of high quality hotels, Mrs Wickham, a partner in a Whanganui River-based tourism business, said those in the industry were ambassadors for the district.

She said the statistics showed growth within the sector which was injecting dollars into Whanganui's economy.

"But the future will involve a broader collaboration with our neighbours Ruapehu and Rangitikei because we can all draw on key national assets like the Whanganui River and National Park and Tongariro National Park," she said.

Mrs Wickham said while the current push had been aimed at domestic visitors, she believed Whanganui operators needed to target international visitors.

"But marketing offshore is not cheap, In fact it's incredibly expensive so we need to work collaboratively with those neighbours," she said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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