Figures released last week indicate that total Hawke’s Bay visitor nights for 2010 increased by 36,995 visitor nights over 2009.
Interestingly, these figure reflect a decline of 2.4 % in the visitor nights spent in commercial accommodations, offset by an increase of 2.6% in visitor nights spent in private accommodations. Indeed, visitors to Hawke’s Bay are twice as likely to stay in private accommodations. [Remember that very long week Cousin Bertie and his family spent with you?!]
The private accommodation increase prompted George Hickton, Board Chair of Hawke’s Bay Tourism to say: “These year-end results show how important local residents are to Hawke’s Bay’s tourism industry. They have the ability to showcase the wonderful region they live in and encourage their visiting friends and family to explore Hawke’s Bay.”
Amen to that. We need to be marketing the Bay to residents of Hawke’s Bay … maybe more than to Australians! And giving Bay residents both the tools and incentives to lure more Cousin Berties to our region. Ideas for doing that have been floating around here for two years now, but not acted upon.
Meantime, Hawke’s Bay is losing international visitors — for 2010, down 10.2%. An excellent weekend report in the DomPost shed some light on why.
Last year, NZ had 2.5 million international visitors, up 2.7% in numbers, but down 5% in spending once here. Overall, the bigger spending British/European/American share of NZ’s visitor pie has been shrinking. The growing portion has been chiefly Australians (45% of visitors, who spend less, however, than our northern hemisphere friends) and Chinese (120,000 in 2010, and growing), who book highly structured package tours that don’t include provinces like ours.
The Anglo-American shrinkage reflects macro-economic realities that no amount of Hawke’s Bay Tourism spending will reverse, even if there were a unified regional strategy and an end to petty local rivalries.
As for the Australians, I guess a handful of cheapo Aussies is better than none at all. [Many Kiwis would say that’s a close call!]
And what about the Chinese? What might an appealing “Week in Hawke’s Bay” package targeted at the Chinese traveler look like? What might it look like rendered in Chinese, for that matter (and on which of the Bay’s five tourism websites)? How might Tourism Hawke’s Bay get it marketed to would-be Chinese tourists? And would all this marketing be worth the candle? For example, would it deserve to be a higher priority than getting more Cousin Bernies down here from Auckland? I think not? Maybe we should just wait until more Chinese begin to arrive in NZ on independent travel.
When critics complain about how poorly the Bay is marketed, the conversation generally turns to advertising, or lack of participation in this or that promotion. In other words, the emphasis is on the presentation tactics and the dollars available for such promotion.
Instead, maybe we need to focus first on improving the offer itself — on our events, attractions, landscapes, environment … and service. Something Cousin Bertie will hear about — directly from you and me — and enjoy coming back for. [And maybe the next time, he’ll stay in a motel.]
And if we’re to focus on our offer (while we wait out the global recession), then it might help to sort out which — if any — aspects of improving that offer require the involvement of local/regional government (and ratepayer funding), and which lie squarely in the hands of the tourism private sector.