BOP tourism explores new direction

The good news for the Coastal Bay of Plenty is that tourists spent a record $1 billion last year. The less good news – at least for some business ratepayers – is that Tourism Bay of Plenty is seeking increased annual council funding of around $620,000 to help support a new and better targeted approach.

Tourism BOP says the increase would make its funding more aligned with other similar-sized Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs).

And it would underpin its efforts to drill down and gain a better understanding of exactly who comes to the region and why, and to transition from largely promotional activities to what the industry describes as destination management.

“It would be reckless to allow this level of growth without a considered management plan. We are aiming to grow the visitor economy on our terms, with the right visitors at the right time, for the benefit of the region,” said Tourism BOP chief executive Kristin Dunne.

“Destination management is the coordinated management of all the elements that make up a region. It is the key to controlling tourism’s environmental impacts and preserving the region’s unique identity.”

Dunne told Bay of Plenty Business News the move was part of a long-term strategy that was attempting to balance growth with a solid management plan. As part of this process, the tourism body has put together a 10-year Visitor Economy Strategy. This has forecast that the visitor economy will grow by more than 50 percent by 2028, positioning tourism as one of the larger economic contributors to the region.

“The additional funding will allow us to do a lot more research so that we can better understand the visitors and we could be making insight-led decisions. That’s really at the heart of destination management – it’s making sure we understand who the visitors are, where they’re coming from, and what they need.”

The reality was that currently the research data was very poor, Dunne said. The BOP is a region with many entry and exit points, making measurement of visitors difficult.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce Chief executive Stan Gregec said he was in principle supportive of something that at least reflected a more targeted approach to council funding.

“We are a membership-based organisation that is a proxy for the business community,” he said.

“Tourism BOP is 100-per cent funded by councils and we have been asked to support them getting another $620,000 a year. Clearly it’s the general business community that is going to have to pay for this eventually through rates. But at least it would be an example of a targeted rate so we would know in theory where those funds were going to be spent.”

He was speaking in the context of the current opposition by many in the business community to the proposed shift to businesses paying higher rates.

“We do understand there is a national formula for tourist organisations and Tourism BOP has a bit of catchup to do. I support the destination management approach. But their focus till now has been on promoting, and they’ve done very little to coordinate what happens at this end. I would have thought, given the money they have been getting for external promotion for years, that it would have been a good idea to have done some of that analysis already.”

To read the full article in Bay of Plenty Business News, click here.

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