Shaun Lines
Director, GROW

1. Promote what we are not what we want to be. It seems that tourism people feel the need to promote something that we would like HB to be, rather than the actual experience on offer here at present. A case in point is marketing HB as a place for adventure tourism. Taupo, Rotorua and Queenstown already do it well and have the high ground, so stop competing and instead promote things like gannets, vineyards and art deco harder.

As we are obviously now the proud owners of a regional sports park, what are we doing to actually market the venue to all the sports codes to secure events etc? And realistically, why focus on events like Rugby World Cup? We will never compete with the big centres’ budgets and have only token games here, so imagine if we had spent the same budget on getting other events here and what the value of the domestic tourism spend would have been.

2. Focus on quality experiences and training those in the industry to actually be friendly. It is a crazy thing but many in the so-called “hospitality” sector just are not very hospitable! Those who let the side down are doing huge damage to the sector and undermine any marketing that is put in place.

Quality should not be interpreted as “high-cost” but instead as positive memorable experiences that will encourage visitors to come again and tell their friends about one of the country’s forgotten treasures. A good comparison for Hawke’s Bay is in fact Taranaki, which is also off the main trunk route but has focused on delivering great times to visitors (in spite of their dodgy weather).

3. Market the differences we offer the visitor with some commitment. I can’t help but think that the occasional campaign put out by VHB is a token effort. While I appreciate that the counter arguement is “budget”, it needs to be questioned why only $100k is spent on regional marketing when VHB has a budget of almost $2M. Are they serious about marketing or is tourism an afterthought? Everyone will have an opinion on the content, but the key challenge is how much marketing we really do. There may be an argument for tourism not to be part of VHB as their focus appears to be on other things.

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