The Case for the Hawke’s Bay Visitor Industry
In the big picture, the visitor industry contributes 10% to this country’s GDP, and employs approximately 94,600 people. According to latest figures from the Ministry of Tourism international tourism is worth $9.3 billion a year or around 20% of total foreign exchange earnings, about the same as dairying, more than meat (15%) , or forestry and wine combined ( each under 6%).
Domestic visitors contribute $12.4 billion, over half the industry total, but growth is less than 1% a year compared to about 4% for international. As a result income from international tourism will soon overtake domestic tourism as the primary source of income.
In Hawke’s Bay the visitor industry is also worth about 10% to the economy. The Napier City Council puts a value of $150 million on their share of tourism with direct and indirect employment of 3300.
Tourism is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing opportunities world-wide. It is much more responsive to promotion than other areas such as manufacturing or farming. People already want to travel so the trick for New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay is to get a bigger share of the cake.
It is not surprising then that tourism attracts so much attention in our region. Growth opportunities provide a very good reason why local authorities currently financially invest in the industry, and an even better reason why they should increase their investment and support.
Successful tourism promotion provides the numbers necessary to support events and activities in the region that might not otherwise be possible. The Mission Concert and Horse of the Year are two such events. Also the National Aquarium and Splash Planet would not have attracted such substantial council investments if it was not for the potential patronage of visitors. Continued investment in such facilities is essential for them to remain attractive.
Visitors also contribute to the general atmosphere. Think of how exciting it seems during the unique atmosphere of an Art Deco Weekend, or when a cruise ship or two tie up at the wharf spilling thousands of passengers onto our streets. Hawke’s Bay seems so much more vibrant when they are here.
Cruise passengers aboard ships already booked to dock for the 2011-12 season are tipped to top 100,000. They may only be in port for a few hours but can become repeat visitors, with 68% of NZ cruise visitors saying they would like to return as independent travellers, and with 94% saying they are likely to recommend New Zealand to friends and family they can be great ambassadors for us.
Whilst our regional economy is driven by primary industry, farming, horticulture, viticulture and forestry, several factors, such as land availability and suitability, water, lead times, profitability, markets and a host of other considerations, conspire to limit growth opportunities.
We do however possess significant natural and built assets that make us an attractive place to visit. Our weather is as good as it gets in New Zealand and combined with great food, wine and activities we have a magical combination.
However our visitor industry is showing some serious weaknesses. The recession has hit hard, we are near the bottom in the growth ratings for commercial visitor nights. The growth in our visitor numbers has seen a decline in the past two years, yet other parts of the country are still getting positive growth. The Napier City Council recently reported a 4% fall in total visitor numbers over the 2009 calendar year a continuation of the declining trend that has taken place since 2006. This may perhaps be cyclical, but never the less, cannot be ignored.
Why is this happening?
Is our message being heard above the rest? Ten years ago, when the Wine Country brand was launched, it was our point of difference. Other regions have upped their game and caught up or overtaken us in the minds of the consumer. In recent times the regional brand has arguably lacked exposure and support, and consequently has become diluted, being sidelined to varying degrees by separate brands from Napier and Hastings for example. We must return to a strong regional brand, as an umbrella for the sub-regional brands and propositions, be consistent with it and walk the talk.
Perhaps we have simply become uncompetitive or unaffordable for our key domestic visitor market against the tempting holiday offers from overseas destinations like Sydney, The Gold Coast, Pacific Islands, Bali and others, or improved affordability and accessibility between the main population centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch leaving regions like Hawke’s Bay on the outer.
From an in-bound perspective, Australia provides nearly half the 2.5 million international visitors to New Zealand each year, but for Hawke’s Bay the percentage is much smaller. Lack of airline competition is resulting in high fares and poor access, impacting on both domestic and Australian visitors. Our Association fully supports the extension to the airport runway; it is time that our province became affordable to visit by air.
To boost returns from the industry we must increase the numbers visiting, get people to stay longer, spend more and participate in a wider range of our tourism products. We need to encourage operators to work together to provide linked packages which will be attractive to our visitors.
Tourism offers an opportunity for our region to do better, but to achieve this we must all commit ourselves to working together and making it happen.
“Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are going to spend some time in a region called Wine Country.
Imagine the climate. Imagine the places you would stay, the sort of food and cafes, dining and shopping you would experience. Imagine a game of golf late in the afternoon in Wine Country – or hot air ballooning in the early morning. Imagine taking the kids swimming or fishing or exploring in Wine Country.
Imagine the people you would meet and the interesting lives they would lead. Imagine the artists and the artisans who would also live and work there.
Then on top of all this, imagine if that region also had a rich indigenous culture, superb examples of Spanish Mission architecture and one of the greatest Art Deco cities in the world.
Wine Country. It’s wine and so much more – it is Hawke’s Bay. Welcome to Wine Country.”
Contributed by: Hawke’s Bay Wine Country Tourism Association.