Selling our sights

TOP SPOT: Melbourne commuters have enjoyed a larger-than-life shot of Te Rau Kururangi from Tokomaru Bay, and his horse, lately. They feature in the latest Tourism NZ advertising campaign, ‘Good Morning World’. Picture supplied
GOOD AND BUSY: Visitor information officers Belle Hihu, Lisi Walters and Mary Mackey had a busy year at the Gisborne i-Site. Picture by Liam Clayton

After two years operating as the regional tourism organisation here, Activate Tairawhiti has, with the aid of over $2m investment from the Eastland Community Trust, seen the nation’s biggest rise in tourism spending. Andrew Ashton sits down with the AT tourism team and finds out how they made that happen and what is still to come.

Over the year to April, Tairawhiti’s tourism spend rose 12.7 percent, and that was up on the previous year’s rise of 11.8 percent. It was also the nation’s highest regional yearly percentage increase for the second successive year and regional tourism organisation Activate Tairawhiti expects a rise in Aussie tourists next year will give the region a further boost.
AT took on the role nearly two years ago from Tourism Eastland, who had done a good job with limited funds.

Tourism Eastland operated on a $350,000 annual budget from Gisborne District Council. Activate Tairawhiti has now been able to pull in $1.35m a year — $1m from the Eastland Community Trust and $350,000 from the district council, for the second year in a row.

Activate Tairawhiti tourism general manager Adam Hughes said the team had prioritised several areas over the past year to maximise that investment.

“We started in this last year with a focus on product development. It’s huge because we need more local businesses that are generating more local employment. Also, those profits come directly back to the local community.”
AT employed Holly Hatzilamprou to the role of product development adviser six months ago to help that area of focus.

“She’s helping us change the game because without unique products which tell the stories of the region, it’s much more difficult to talk to both domestic and international consumers about what’s here. Otherwise, they just return to their old assumptions that all that’s here are beaches and wine — and we have a hell of a lot more than that.”

The immediate focus of destination marketing continued to be on the domestic market, with market research identifying Auckland and Wellington consumers. Product development was also critical in boosting international markets.

“Now we are able to work in key markets to drive international visits. Australia is our biggest focus and that’s followed by the UK, Europe and the United States.

“The reason we selected those markets is because we already have visitors from there who have found us, and the reason they have found us, and why we are talking to those markets, is they have the length of time in the country to come all the way to Tairawhiti,” said Mr Hughes.

“On top of that, they are also interested in the natural environment and deep cultural connections. We think there is a lot of growth potential for us coming out of those markets.”

Sunrise theme ‘perfect fit’ for region

Visitors from those previously untapped markets also provide value over volume opportunities, which would be less taxing on infrastructure.

With an increase in demand, Activate Tairawhiti continues to partner with Air New Zealand on significant product development and driving additional air services.
“It’s great to see Air New Zealand increasing their services to the region as a result of our growth,” said Mr Hughes.

A big part of the international push was to get visitor attractions here accredited with independent quality assessor Qualmark.
Mr Hughes said the region now had two Qualmark gold standard, two silver and one bronze standard offering — up from the single silver standard attraction just a year ago.

“That gives us a voice we otherwise just wouldn’t have. We are actively working hand in glove with others to ensure they are Qualmark accredited. It’s very much a case of a rising tide floating all boats.
“The more quality-assured products we have the more it helps the entire region, as well as the individual products themselves.”

A framework to help people negotiate how to get into the tourism market was in development and was expected to be released within weeks.
“We want anyone in the region who is interested in creating a tourism product to be able to come and meet with Holly or me and for us to be able to simply show them on one page the journey they would be able to go on to make a sustainable tourism product.”

A recent trip to the nation’s largest international tourism expo (TRENZ) showcased the region’s Qualmark-rated products and brought “awesome” reactions from international buyers, Mr Hughes said.

However, it was “really clear” that the region’s accommodation sector had not grown at the same rate as the rest of the country, and that would need to be worked on.
“International guests are expecting a certain quality, and that’s just not available throughout our region. So we are just beginning a piece of work to understand what those gaps might look like so we can start to address that.”

Another key focus over the year had been around bringing events to the region, like the Gisborne-Tairawhiti Spirited Women’s Adventure Race, as well as up-and-coming events like the Maunga to Moana adventure race, the Gisborne Beer Festival and the Chardonnay Affair event.

Destination marketing had also been a focus, with the region recently featuring in a global Tourism New Zealand advertising campaign.
“We are working closely with Tourism NZ. The Good Morning World campaign will be active for the next three years and its sunrise theme is a perfect fit for our region and key products like Maunga Hikurangi. We have a great opportunity to connect our regional promotions with this massive multi-million dollar campaign. So that piece is really only in its infancy.”

Tourism NZ expected Tairawhiti to see its first Australian visitors as a result of the campaign from November.

In addition the Gisborne i-Site had been developed, with increased staff levels and a focus on training and qualifications.
“There’s a big push at the i-Site to increase the quality of our service. Our staff now have the best available tools so we can provide quality service to our customers and that’s not just the international visitors coming in, it’s also our community seeking information and local businesses connecting their products with our visitors.

“We see the i-Site as a beacon of really good customer service for our region, so we can use it as a breeding ground for staff pursuing a career in tourism.
“Our new i-Site manager Hana Edwardson is doing a great job, as she leads the team through a period of change.”
ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy said Tourism Eastland worked hard to grow tourism in the region but they were always limited by available funding.

“ECT has invested over $2 million into tourism over the past two years and we are pleased to see a measurable impact with the highest visitor spend growth in New Zealand.
​“We have been the regional tourism organisation for two years now. Year one showed good progress, but a lot was happening behind the scenes.

“At the end of year two it is exciting that the community are seeing some major progress including the Qualmark accreditations, events, and major destination marketing campaigns.”

After two years operating as the regional tourism organisation here, Activate Tairawhiti has, with the aid of over $2m investment from the Eastland Community Trust, seen the nation’s biggest rise in tourism spending. Andrew Ashton sits down with the AT tourism team and finds out how they made that happen and what is still to come.

Over the year to April, Tairawhiti’s tourism spend rose 12.7 percent, and that was up on the previous year’s rise of 11.8 percent. It was also the nation’s highest regional yearly percentage increase for the second successive year and regional tourism organisation Activate Tairawhiti expects a rise in Aussie tourists next year will give the region a further boost.
AT took on the role nearly two years ago from Tourism Eastland, who had done a good job with limited funds.

Tourism Eastland operated on a $350,000 annual budget from Gisborne District Council. Activate Tairawhiti has now been able to pull in $1.35m a year — $1m from the Eastland Community Trust and $350,000 from the district council, for the second year in a row.

Activate Tairawhiti tourism general manager Adam Hughes said the team had prioritised several areas over the past year to maximise that investment.

“We started in this last year with a focus on product development. It’s huge because we need more local businesses that are generating more local employment. Also, those profits come directly back to the local community.”
AT employed Holly Hatzilamprou to the role of product development adviser six months ago to help that area of focus.

“She’s helping us change the game because without unique products which tell the stories of the region, it’s much more difficult to talk to both domestic and international consumers about what’s here. Otherwise, they just return to their old assumptions that all that’s here are beaches and wine — and we have a hell of a lot more than that.”

The immediate focus of destination marketing continued to be on the domestic market, with market research identifying Auckland and Wellington consumers. Product development was also critical in boosting international markets.

“Now we are able to work in key markets to drive international visits. Australia is our biggest focus and that’s followed by the UK, Europe and the United States.

“The reason we selected those markets is because we already have visitors from there who have found us, and the reason they have found us, and why we are talking to those markets, is they have the length of time in the country to come all the way to Tairawhiti,” said Mr Hughes.

“On top of that, they are also interested in the natural environment and deep cultural connections. We think there is a lot of growth potential for us coming out of those markets.”

Sunrise theme ‘perfect fit’ for region

Visitors from those previously untapped markets also provide value over volume opportunities, which would be less taxing on infrastructure.

With an increase in demand, Activate Tairawhiti continues to partner with Air New Zealand on significant product development and driving additional air services.
“It’s great to see Air New Zealand increasing their services to the region as a result of our growth,” said Mr Hughes.

A big part of the international push was to get visitor attractions here accredited with independent quality assessor Qualmark.
Mr Hughes said the region now had two Qualmark gold standard, two silver and one bronze standard offering — up from the single silver standard attraction just a year ago.

“That gives us a voice we otherwise just wouldn’t have. We are actively working hand in glove with others to ensure they are Qualmark accredited. It’s very much a case of a rising tide floating all boats.
“The more quality-assured products we have the more it helps the entire region, as well as the individual products themselves.”

A framework to help people negotiate how to get into the tourism market was in development and was expected to be released within weeks.
“We want anyone in the region who is interested in creating a tourism product to be able to come and meet with Holly or me and for us to be able to simply show them on one page the journey they would be able to go on to make a sustainable tourism product.”

A recent trip to the nation’s largest international tourism expo (TRENZ) showcased the region’s Qualmark-rated products and brought “awesome” reactions from international buyers, Mr Hughes said.

However, it was “really clear” that the region’s accommodation sector had not grown at the same rate as the rest of the country, and that would need to be worked on.
“International guests are expecting a certain quality, and that’s just not available throughout our region. So we are just beginning a piece of work to understand what those gaps might look like so we can start to address that.”

Another key focus over the year had been around bringing events to the region, like the Gisborne-Tairawhiti Spirited Women’s Adventure Race, as well as up-and-coming events like the Maunga to Moana adventure race, the Gisborne Beer Festival and the Chardonnay Affair event.

Destination marketing had also been a focus, with the region recently featuring in a global Tourism New Zealand advertising campaign.
“We are working closely with Tourism NZ. The Good Morning World campaign will be active for the next three years and its sunrise theme is a perfect fit for our region and key products like Maunga Hikurangi. We have a great opportunity to connect our regional promotions with this massive multi-million dollar campaign. So that piece is really only in its infancy.”

Tourism NZ expected Tairawhiti to see its first Australian visitors as a result of the campaign from November.

In addition the Gisborne i-Site had been developed, with increased staff levels and a focus on training and qualifications.
“There’s a big push at the i-Site to increase the quality of our service. Our staff now have the best available tools so we can provide quality service to our customers and that’s not just the international visitors coming in, it’s also our community seeking information and local businesses connecting their products with our visitors.

“We see the i-Site as a beacon of really good customer service for our region, so we can use it as a breeding ground for staff pursuing a career in tourism.
“Our new i-Site manager Hana Edwardson is doing a great job, as she leads the team through a period of change.”
ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy said Tourism Eastland worked hard to grow tourism in the region but they were always limited by available funding.

“ECT has invested over $2 million into tourism over the past two years and we are pleased to see a measurable impact with the highest visitor spend growth in New Zealand.
​“We have been the regional tourism organisation for two years now. Year one showed good progress, but a lot was happening behind the scenes.

“At the end of year two it is exciting that the community are seeing some major progress including the Qualmark accreditations, events, and major destination marketing campaigns.”

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