On the eve of the Toyota Hawke's Bay Winter Deco Weekend, and with a speaking engagement in Napier, there was no question what sort of transportation was required to greet Associate Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett at Hawke's Bay Airport yesterday.

A well groomed and polished 1938 Packhard awaited the minister and she was delighted to sample the comfortable ride into the city in deco style.

It was also a fitting touch to her visit to the Bay as the summer Tremains Art Deco Festival is an $11m tourism income earner for the region.

Ms Bennett arrived in Napier to address members of the Hawke's Bay tourism industry at the MTG Hawke's Bay Century Theatre, and clearly relished arriving to almost early spring-like weather.


Hawke's Bay, she said, had been punching above its weight in terms of attracting international tourists.

There had been a national increase in international arrivals of 11 per cent over the previous year, and the Bay had posted a 14 per cent increase.

Art Deco had certainly been a factor, she said.

"You have a unique event here," Ms Bennett said, adding she had enjoyed a "royal tour" of some of Napier's deco delights and could see why it was attracting a growing number of international visitors.

"People are now travelling outside the main centres."

Ms Bennett said part of the Government's latest tourism strategy was injecting money into New Zealand Tourism in its expansion into the eastern USA and India and to entice people to travel outside the peak times.

It was also vital to have not only sights, but specific events, to draw people in.

Events like the Hawke's Bay Toyota Winter Deco Weekend illustrated that, she said.

Art Deco Trust general manager Sally Jackson, who accompanied Ms Bennett on the drive into the city, said this weekend's event had drawn overseas visitors from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Ms Bennett said her only regret about arriving in the Bay was that her schedule did not allow her to stay and enjoy the deco weekend which officially gets under way this evening with the Winter Deco Welcome.

Ms Jackson said there had been a "very special" addition to the opening night.

"Bertie is going to officially open it," she said.

John "Bertie" Cocking had been one of the initial drivers of the mid-winter deco event and had worked hard to ensure it continued during a time some years back when it appeared to be in jeopardy.

"If it wasn't for him it might not have happened," Ms Jackson said.

Today's events:

* Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn star in this big-screen comedy outing at the Globe Theatrette, Hardinge Rd, Ahuriri, at 5.45pm. Tickets $21, which includes a sweet treat.

* Winter Deco Welcome: Official weekend opening at the Gatsby Room, Masonic Hotel, 5.30pm-7pm. Tickets $26.

* Piano Man: Dine on a Deco-inspired, two-course menu, accompanied by the sophisticated and elegant sounds of Stephen Millar on piano Hawke's Bay Club, Browning St, Napier, 7pm. Tickets $64.

* Red Hot Martini Club: Experience the glamour and tastes of the martini club as it was meant to be, from 7.30pm at Wine Street Restaurant, The County Hotel, cnr Browning and Herschell streets, Napier. Tickets $50.

* Speakeasy Burlesque: For two nights only. Glory Days and Red Delicious Burlesque present the sultry side of Deco, featuring a cast of international performers. Tonight will feature seven acts and tomorrow night 10 acts. Tonight, 10.30pm, The Cabana, 11 Shakespeare Rd, Napier. Tickets $35. Tomorrow, 8.30pm, The Cabana. Tickets $40. Ticket for both nights $70.