“Marketing Hawke’s Bay” means many things to many people. And therein lies one of the key challenges in selling our region as a place to visit, live or invest.

Our various Councils in Hawke’s Bay spend in the neighborhood of $3-5 million marketing the region, its attractions and events. At the Regional Council, $1.2 million is centered in Venture Hawke’s Bay (VHB), the region’s tourism and economic development agency. At the Hastings Council, nearly $500,000 is spent on tourism, branding, and event support, in addition to monies spent marketing facilities like Splash Planet, the Opera House, Hastings City Art Gallery and the Holiday Park. Similar amounts would apply to the Napier Council.

And in the case of Hastings and Napier, additional amounts are spent on “economic development” activities … essentially marketing the Bay to potential relocating businesses, trade partners and investors outside the region.

This represents the public investment in marketing the Bay. It supplements the private sector marketing monies spent by individual businesses, event and attraction promoters.

“Marketing” has a negative connotation to many people. It conjures up “selling stuff” to unwitting customers who don’t really need the products or services on offer, and are being “manipulated” to buy … maybe even through misleading promotions and advertising.

So when we hear talk about “marketing Hawke’s Bay,” some might be put off. And when we realise that our local Councils spend a significant amount of ratepayer dollars on such marketing, some might be appalled.

Why should ratepayer funds be used at all to aid the marketing of private profit-making enterprises?

Listen to Mayor Yule: “Hawke’s Bay needs to be marketed, marketed and marketed. Our ratepayers may be worried about the money involved in marketing the region. But we have little choice, our competitors are in our face.”

The reality is that our region’s businesses – the businesses that provide our livelihoods – operate in an intensely competitive environment that extends far beyond the geographic and economic boundaries of Hawke’s Bay. If they don’t present their case aggressively and well – i.e., market themselves – they won’t prosper, or even survive.

Beyond what individual businesses and sectors do to market themselves in their own self-interest, is the issue of the community’s self-interest in helping its private enterprises succeed.

For example, few would dispute the community’s broad interest in providing or subsidizing the first-class infrastructure to support commerce, such as a port, airport, major roads and, lately, broadband service. While these are not marketing investments per se, such expenditures establish the principle that public monies can support private enterprise.

From there, it’s not such a big leap to public expenditures that support tourism, exporting, or technology innovation. Once that leap is taken, debate shifts to which parts or sectors of the regional economy – because of their dominant importance – should receive the most ratepayer largesse.

Of course, there’s a direct return to local governments from their marketing investments in the form of a larger rating base, which can generate more revenue to finance the projects of politicians and bureaucrats.

So, how, and how well, do our local bodies spend their marketing dollars? We’ll talk first about tourism, and then economic development.

Go here to read entire article. Or if you’re in a hurry, here are my recommendations for marketing the bay:

1. Get and use the right data – know our customers
2. Create one “premium event” calendar, with funding support
3. Leverage our HB “friends & family” and overseas ambassadors
4. Implement a serious, world-standard PR campaign
5. Make memorable service and experiences a marketing advantage
6. Improve quality of local business mentoring – to grow HB from within
7. Upgrade and master online/web-based marketing
8. Adopt the marketing execution focus & discipline recommended here by Kim Thorp
9. Produce a consolidated budget showing all local body marketing spends & KPIs – so best bang for the buck can be identified
10. Form a “Regional Marketing Council” like Wellington to strategize, coordinate and knock heads

And bring competitive air fares to Hawke’s Bay!

Go here to read entire article.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hawkes Bay is an expensive place to get to unless competitive airfares are a reality we will seriously reduce the number of visitors tourists and or business.

    How often can one secure a return airfare to Christchurch for $39:00.

    This is a reality from Wellington and other larger centres.

    We don't need a larger runway just competitive air fares.

  2. David says, "We don't need a larger runway, just competitve air fares".

    By definition, the only thing that will result in "competitive" air fares is "competition".

    The only type of aircraft that can operate commercially on our short HB runway are turboprops. There is only one airline in NZ that has a turboprop fleet – Air NZ Link. Therefore, as long as our runway remains so short (and it is one of the shortest in NZ), we're awarding Air NZ a virtual monopoly here.

    Until we get a longer runway that allows competing carriers into HB, our air fares will never be truly competitive. To learn more, please visit http://www.runwayhb.com

  3. One of the problems with ‘marketing’ Hawke’s Bay may well have to do with the failure of local bodies and tourism operators to work together and articulate a big picture view.

    We have to get beyond art deco, wine and sunshine, all of which we have in good measure, to profie Hawke’s Bay as a growth region where it’s easy to do business, where local authorities are supportive of development and the entrepreneurial spirit is treasured.

    Often missing in the picture are small niche operators who bring colour, charm and a sense of character and culture to Hawke’s Bay but too often are left off the trail, whether that’s in tourism or in other business areas.

    There’s clearly something magic about Hawke’s Bay and the art of marketing is to capitalise on uniqueness not mimic other centres. Hawke’s Bay’s greatest asset is its people, and how well they are able to express their creativity, no matter what they’re engaged in, whether it’s the creative arts, tourism or industry.

    Visitors are impressed by the simplest things; the cost of parking is a relief when compared to Auckland or Wellington, the vineyards hint at Tuscany and the Mediterranean, the wild ocean is invigorating, the atmosphere is easy and the people generally friendly and helpful.

    People are looking for lifestyle: the fruit bowl, wine country, ‘heart of Hawke’s Bay’ and ‘Art Deco capital’ all promise that but we need much more to keep people coming back.

    What’s needed to curb the migration of young people away from the bay, and ensure we’re not just a summer resort area that suffers economically in the shoulder period. With one of the largest Maori populations in the country how do we better celebrate that and honour and encourage tangata whenua so they can best express themselves and the unique history of Hawke’s Bay?

    Hawke’s Bay was the last province where towns and cities were developed from the 1860s because it was reasonably inaccessible and didn’t have a safe port. Now, 150-years later, the paradise that New Zealand by-passed may soon face a second wave of migration.

    The question is are we ready for this? Will we welcome this opportunity and embrace the new ideas and that will inevitably be part of this, or increase the parking fees, remain divided on future planning, put another layer in the bureaucratic walls that oppose new development and growth, and essentially shoot ourselves in the foot?

    Often forgotten in the mix are numerous niche hospitality, accommodation, tourist and creative arts businesses who find the costs of being embraced by the various regional tourism initiatives prohibitive. So they don’t get their pamphlets displayed, can’t afford to advertise in the various publications and get literally left off the map.

    This means only the bigger players get regular mention, but Hawke’s Bay is much more than that, again it’s about small businesses, niche outlets and operators who, given the opportunity, will grow to become bigger operators and employers.

    The hidden figures in tourism, huge numbers of unaccounted for individuals who stay with friends and relatives at weekends and holidays, represent an advance guard for future growth.

    If the experience is enjoyable they’ll come back, maybe make it an annual trip or even consider buying a home or relocating a business here. If the infrastructure (broadband, roading, flight schedules) is right and the level of engagement with the community and the hospitality and visitor industries is enjoyable it bodes well on all fronts.

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