Recently Hawke’s Bay Tourism was awarded $700,000 from MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) from its Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme (STAPP).

The funding boost comes with the condition that current investment in regional tourism organisations (RTOs, of which HB Tourism is one) is retained by local government, recognising the work of RTOs and the value they bring to their local communities.

“With this investment, the government and Minister have recognised RTOs as the experts in regional marketing, working with local businesses and economies, says Hawke’s Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton.

The funding is supporting a programme of activities across three categories – destination management and planning; industry capacity building and product development; and domestic marketing. It will also be used for event and business conference promotion.

“We are grateful to the government for this as it also recognises that at this time, local government and ratepayers cannot fund the investment required to reignite domestic tourism on their own,” says Hamish.

As the RTO, Hawke’s Bay Tourism’s role is to ensure the region gets more than its fair share of visitors in a highly competitive environment.

“We currently have a campaign in market, which appears to be garnering great feedback,” says Hamish. “However, our biggest concern has always been how can we maintain and build on that momentum and investment. This funding allows us to develop a strategy that can deliver real, tangible results for our local visitor economy.”

The marketing activity HB Tourism does outside of the region is crucial in delivering a critical mass of visitors to the region and a portion of the funding will go towards further “tactical domestic marketing activity” – everything from creative development, enhancing digital platforms, media buying and PR activity.

“Building on the success of the Baycation campaign is essential to maintain momentum. Therefore, investment will be made to promote the region to encourage visitation over the spring, summer, and autumn periods.”

HB Tourism seems to be doing something right, having just announced Hawke’s Bay has recorded a 10.1% growth in overall visitor spend for the month of August over the same period last year, an increase that is greater than every other region in New Zealand. More than $45 million was injected into our visitor economy during the month of August. HB saw the highest growth in domestic visitor spend of any region of the North Island.

Hamish says he’s “pleased to see that we have increased our share of visitor spend that comes from the Wellington region. Given our strategic focus on this market, this is great news and we are delighted to see such positive outcomes.”

“Given the whole of New Zealand is currently completely reliant on the domestic tourism market, until a potential trans-Tasman bubble can be formed, the marketing activity we do outside of the region is crucial in delivering a critical mass of visitors to Hawke’s Bay.”

The funding has also been used to “build capability”, with a recent Food and Wine Country Project Lead hire, which Hamish says “will help develop and stake our ‘food and wine country’ claim on the map, and protect it, supported by research, mapped experiences, and sector buy-in.”

Hawke’s Bay Tourism has a membership of more than 180 members and a ‘normal’ annual turnover of approximately $2.2 million, of which $1.5 million is an investment from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

Hamish says surveys clearly state what operators want most from the RTO. “That we are active in the market and attracting people to Hawke’s Bay. That is the greatest thing we can do – generate visitors from elsewhere and help reignite our visitor economy.”

HB Tourism must report back to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment at both the six and 12-month mark.

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