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Wednesday Letter: Who funds our tourism?

4 Apr 2018  By Contributor

As some regional tourism organisations face funding cuts or fail to increase budgets, destination and services marketing strategist, Lyn Cheyne, asks who should fund New Zealand’s tourism marketing?  

Lyn Cheyne

It’s not surprising this topic is red hot currently as it’s a question that has long been shuffled about. Like many organisations established for regional or industry good it is as prosperous as the people behind it and committed to it. Having worked for over 15 years in the destination marketing space for wine and tourism I’ve seen a few different funding and membership models along the way.
Destination Queenstown is looking for a funding increase citing NZ Tourism’s efforts to disperse tourism regionally may hurt some of the existing hot spots and Tourism Bay of Plenty is also asking for more to manage tourism growth so it doesn’t adversely affect the environment and local communities. Tourism West Coast and Development West Coast are engaging in what could only be called a scrap over who gets to own and manage tourism for the region and the funds come from several councils and central government.
Hawke’s Bay is up in arms at proposed regional tourism funding cuts and the local councils are quick to add their voices to the dismay and disagreement. This one I find particularly fascinating having been around years ago when Hawke’s Bay Wine Country (the forerunner to Hawke’s Bay Tourism) was first formed. Essentially, the local industry, supported enormously and generously by Sir Graham Avery, established their own entity as they were fed up with the inability of the five councils within the region to work together to promote Hawke’s Bay.
All the councils involved used to contribute funding, not just the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC). The HBRC has four core functions and tourism is not one of them – yes, they wish to contribute to a prosperous regional economy and have done so. It is included in their vision for the future, but so does the Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Wairoa District Council and Central Hawke’s Bay District Council. Check out their websites and Long Term Plans if you don’t believe me.
Hawke’s Bay currently has five councils, a shared services local government organisation, 10 to 12 various business organisations including Business Hawke’s Bay, Hawke’s Bay Tourism, a separate Matariki HB Regional Development Strategy Programme and four iwi organisations. There are nine brands floating around all involved in building the local economy and various parts of it – and that’s not counting the industry organisations like Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers. And that’s for 164,000 people!
So who pays? Where does the buck stop? Tourism operators themselves? From my experience, all tourism operators contribute what they can to regional tourism organisations as they see the benefit in the wider promotion and marketing of their region as a whole. These operators promote for and with the region, in cash and in kind, and not necessarily with the individual towns and villages they may be located in because they can see the bigger picture.
Most of New Zealand’s business falls under the category of “small business”, those with less than 20 employees, and so do tourism businesses. Many are owner operated and have no employees. Those businesses are not the only ones that benefit from the tourism industry. So do the fuel stations, the supermarkets, the retail shops, the cafes and the restaurants. Every place benefits from tourism both directly and indirectly and this is why local government funds over 90% of destination marketing. Left to a membership only funded proposition these regional organisations would cease to exist.
Everyone is in this business. Every citizen and business contributes to the reputation of a destination. Every local government organisation has some responsibility for the environment both our domestic and international visitors come to. Whether we pay it direct, through taxes or rates, financial allocations, sponsorship or partnerships, we contribute both financially and in-kind.
For a successful and sustainable tourism sector in New Zealand we need to pay and plan. Make the conversation not about who pays, but about how. Get talking to each other, work out the priorities and put the budgets together so our communities start to understand tourism, its costs and benefits and that it’s a long term game. Listen to your local tourism expertise.
Not just for the next three years as part of an election cycle but for long term, sustainable, bottom up, socially licensed effective tourism marketing and destination management. Suck it up or lose it people.

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