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.

Tom Belford

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  1. Very interesting article this. I hope your readers go over it again and digest what you are saying.

    I was in Sydney recently and stayed at the least expensive hotel room I could find at $A80.00 per night. It was very basic. I was blown over by the fully functional computer and broadband connection they had in every room.

    I am very close to both the Napier and Hastings Motel Associations. I know that the modern motels near the CBD and with a good view are full. The others are getting less and less bookings every year. I feel that some of the problem may be for Moteliers (and other similar accommodation providers) to access their core business and do more to attract them.

    The Moteliers do have a strong opposition now. In Napier alone there are 3 Holiday Parks, 25 Bed and Breakfasts, 11 Apartments, 4 Backpackers, and 124 Holiday Homes, yes 124 see here:

    I think each motel room should have a computer; broadband access and the motel have Wi-Fi. These all have to be free. Also communication and power plugs at waist level next to a desk or table. One room at each motel should be a free conference room allowing businessmen to conduct meetings free of charge. That not much to pay for an increase in room nights. I told my favorite café in Napier that they should offer free Wi-Fi to customers. They just laughed until I pointed the gigantic expansion of Napier’s McCafe who are the only ones (to my knowledge) to offer free Wi-Fi.

    Yes Tom we do need to give the whole accommodation industry in Hawke’s Bay new tools. You said correctly that Hawke’s Bay events should all be on the same database. Obviously they should use… a partnership of private enterprise and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage see here:

    And what about accommodation? Should Council website charge accommodation providers to advertise? Some could say yes, its user pay. I say no that accommodation is essential to the tourism package and that at the moment most accommodation provider are suffering. Well from what I have seen every Council website gouges accommodation providers. They usually charge between 10 and 13 percent off the top directly from the accommodation provider. That increases the cost of staying in Hawke’s Bay. Why not direct visitors to directly to:… where there is no commission payable?

    As regards international visitors a Marineland would be more useful than a Museum. I will soon be releasing a very comprehensive report showing that revitalizing Marineland would have only cost $4 million. Far less than $18 million for a museum that may attract little more that the 40,000 people a year it currently attracts. Additionally it would make money not suck more money from the ratepayers.

    Just my ideas.


  2. Well said Max. They call it greed! Twelve years ago, with no money but my own, I started, and operated my self catering, fully self-contained holiday home on Marine Parade, near opposite to where the Kiwi House was!

    Not only do the VIC (Tourism Services Ltd, an off shoot of the Napier City Council) charge accommodation providers 10% commission – they also have the temerity to charge them for being listed in their counter book and their brochure display rack. Begs the question. Instead of tripple dipping(! ), Council clearly needs to ask themselves exactly where would they would be without the (some struggling) accommodation providers of this fair city. Why be so greedy? For there is no way in the world Napier could ever host such fantastic huge events such as the Mission Concert and Art Deco without the accommodation providers? Needless to say, I've on sold my holiday home. Otherwise I'd live in fear of being blacklisted!

  3. It’s actually not all bad news Dave.

    There is a website doing a good job for holiday homes and motels. is second in a Google search of the words “hawkes bay”. According to it has far more traffic than the Venture Hawke’s Bay website which is number one in Google.

    I am a partner in so this is free publicity but also pertinent information to the thread. This website has up to 8,000 unique visitors a day depending on news stories it publishes. Saturday last it published this story (written by us)
    Just that one story had over 2,000 viewers, picked up on Google News and broadcast all over the world. National Radio did a story on it the next day. And that is just one single story on one day.

    So this site is busy so what? Well the event database is the same over the entire group (including http://www.allaboutnapier,co,nz, and Hawke’s Bay News at ) it shows that Hawkes Bay has 108 events coming up.

    When you look for motel accommodation you get which is commission free, and holiday homes are on also commission free.

    So there is a viable alternate to the Council’s not too popular website is there not?

  4. Agreed, not all bad news, but it peeves me off no end that our own City Council's quasi company Tourism Services Ltd is so greedy! Hopefully,through your enligtenment Max, our local tourism operators will take up the opportunity to list their services elsewhere!

  5. Press Release: New Zealand Hotel Council

    Date: Thursday, 3 March 2011

    Time: 9:28 am NZT

    Link :

    Just released news from The New Zealand Hotel Council. Central Park region (Taupo, Tongariro, Napier and Gisborne) had the highest average New Zealand room rate of $144.70, followed by Wellington $138.90.

    Makes you think…

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