Our region’s (and nation’s) new tourism strategy is proudly … see us first.

But isn’t that a bit of a shell game?

In the case of Hawke’s Bay Tourism, strategists are targeting Wellington in an attempt to seduce away the windy city denizens with our climate, wine and food charms (oh, and I forgot, the aquarium).

I suggested to one of the strategists that we organise a kind of hostage exchange with Wellington — maybe to occur in Dannevirke. We’d give Wellington, say, 10 busloads of HB deserters residents primed to tour Welly and spend their money there, and in exchange we’d get 10 busloads of Wellington deserters tourists ready to spend their Bay-cation dollars here.

But who wins/loses in this exchange? Unless the Wellingtonians are flush with cash (Gov’t bureaucrats haven’t lost their jobs, after all) and greatly outspend the low-lifes we’ve sent their way, we lose! Or, unless their defectors seriously outnumber ours.

Now, replicate this shell game across New Zealand — Hawke’s Bay residents/tourists and their wallets go to Taupo (and therefore spend less at home), Taupo’s goes to Rotorua (ditto), Rotorua’s to New Plymouth, New Plymouth’s to Palmy, Palmy’s to Wellington, Wellington’s to Hawke’s Bay. The circle is complete. The pea’s come back.

But has any location come out ahead? Only if somewhere in the chain there’s a massive ‘trade imbalance’. As I noted above, our visitors from Welly need to outspend the money we’ve lost from our defectors using their dollars outside the region.

It seems to me the most sensible tourism strategy must involve three elements:

1. We must trick Wellingtonians into setting aside their city/regional pride and loyalty and instead coming here to spend their precious dollars. Maybe hire some Russians to spread social media rumours of a new disease festering in Welly, for which HB’s pure aquifer waters, revered after all in China, are the cure.

2. Simultaneously, we need to get Hawke’s Bay residents to Stay Home! But this clandestine campaign must operate under the radar, not to be discovered by outsiders. And maybe reinforced by a stringent local cap on monthly petrol purchases, so folks can’t get beyond our regional borders.

3. And we need to strike ‘hard and fast’ before Wellington wakes up and realises that we’re sucking them dry.

I’ve never been able to get my head around this ‘circular economy’ conundrum. And I usually lose the pea hustle.

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