Market. Market. Market!
By Lawrence Yule
There are two types of markets in our current arrangements in marketing Hawke’s Bay. One based on tourism and one based on economic development.
The three players you refer to have different roles. Councils market their own cities and districts, tourism offerings, events and economic opportunities. Venture Hawke’s Bay markets the same things on a regional basis, principally to the Wellington/Auckland and overseas markets. The industry, in collaboration with both Councils and VHB, provides the opportunities, product and collateral, and to my mind have a role in helping to market the area through their own marketing activities and through support and participation in regional and district marketing efforts.
Hawke’s Bay Wine Country is our regional tourism brand. Does this work? Not as well as it should.
We have not yet achieved a fully united front in our efforts. Each of the players is still concerned to some degree about patch protection. This is despite us being one of the most favoured destinations and regions in the country. Our lifestyle, weather and schools are key drivers in people decisions to visit or live in our region.
Are we competing well with other regions? No.
While Queenstown and Rotorua are probably in a different category, we should be able to compete with other regions. Wellington, Taranaki and Canterbury all have effective and complete regional approaches. Wellington has a regional strategy lead by a Governance Group of the Mayors and Independent Directors. It is Chaired by Sir John Anderson. All the marketing and future growth plans for the Wellington Region are decided by this group. Taranaki has made an assessment of where it needs to be and has gone for it. Just look at the concerts they now attract.
My criticism of what is happening here is not that people are not trying, it is just the thinking is too small. To some degree all the players are competing with each other. Some industry members prefer to criticise the efforts of others rather than get stuck in suggesting ideas. We actually need to be competing with other regions and the rest of the world. We have developed a very good regional tourism brand and have some of the best natural tourism conditions in the country. Yet we have struggled to keep up with the national average with tourism numbers.
Hawke’s Bay needs to be marketed, marketed and marketed. Hastings and Napier both have their brands and identities. Both should be protected and enhanced. Our ratepayers may be worried about the money involved in marketing the region. But we have little choice, our competitors are in our face. It will come as no surprise that one of my reasons for promoting amalgamation is to try and get a completely united and effective regional strategy where everybody thinks and works for the future of our region. I just can’t see that happening under the current arrangements, despite best efforts.
In specifically marketing Hastings, Hastings District Council has created a new visitor, events and marketing strategy, which dovetails into the business investment strategy, both of which have been adopted by Council. We are in the middle of significant changes to the i-Site which focus on building better relationships with the industry and other stakeholders and providing a much better level of service. We are recruiting specialised staff to ramp up our marketing and events efforts. And in the economic development area, we are ushering in key account management services and a campaign to attract more business investment. Alongside this, more land is being freed up for investment and employment uses.
However, a lot more than just a brand is required, we have to deliver on the promises we make when we advertise ourselves. This involves working with accommodation providers, event organisers and visitor attractions to present an all-round quality visitor experience that makes people want to come back, and want to recommend Hastings to their friends and family.