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ATEED: Reimagining, rebuilding our visitor economy

29 Apr 2020  By Contributor

Steve Armitage

Steve Armitage, general manager of destination at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development on challenging decisions, suspending the APTR, and providing immediate support as the industry looks to recovery.

Like the rest of the world, Tāmaki Makaurau is facing a new reality as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

From the outset, there’s been a lot of speculation about the future of our industry. Can tourism survive? If so, in what shape will it re-emerge? What will the lasting impacts be? The only detail we’ve been able to agree on is that the visitor economy is fundamentally altered as a result of Covid-19, and that we are yet to understand the true nature and extent of the resulting change.

Like many others, we’ve mobilised, alongside central government and partners, to provide immediate business support to those in most need. The national mantra has been “we’re all in this together”, and we have pitched in to connect people to funding support, and provide timely, quality and consistent business advice in order to help save jobs.

But we have also recognised the need to make our own sacrifice. Last week’s decision by Auckland Council’s governing body to suspend the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate for 12 months followed a clear recommendation from the ATEED board and management to take action, providing important relief to the accommodation sector as well as the overall city budget.

It’s an illustrative example of the fact that we are all having to make challenging decisions, yet as we start to look to a new horizon, we should also recognise that if we work together, we have a unique opportunity to re-emerge as a more connected sector – locally, domestically and internationally – with a stronger focus on resilience and sustainability.

Providing immediate industry support

As already noted, one of ATEED’s immediate priorities has been the provision of much-needed support to businesses across Auckland, most notably in our role as the Government’s Regional Business Partner for the region. Our advisors are connecting qualifying businesses with free help from experts including finance and cashflow management, business continuity planning, and marketing advice.

Understandably, there’s high demand for this service so it was pleasing to note the Government’s announcement earlier this week confirming further support for the Regional Business Partner Network programme.

We have also been working with a range of partners to bring together useful information and business tools on our Business Resources web page. We’re making sure these resources are tailored to meet business need through our regular in-market surveys.

In addition, we supported the need to reorient Go with Tourism, an online initiative developed by ATEED to build New Zealand’s tourism workforce. The Go with Tourism team is now offering support and pastoral care to help redeploy displaced tourism workers and provide guidance to businesses in need of advice. We are really proud of how quickly Matt Stenton and the team have been able to pivot the programme to provide this much-needed support.

We also continue to contribute to a range of local and national recovery planning groups, working in collaboration with government agencies, industry bodies, business leaders and Auckland Council. This includes the Mayoral Business Advisory Panel (Covid), which was appointed by Auckland mayor, Phil Goff, to manage the economic effects of the crisis and ensure the city is well placed to move into recovery mode.

Recovery planning

Over the last couple of weeks, we have also started to shift our attention to the steps we will need to take to re-establish and re-imagine our visitor economy. Guided by the principles of kotahitanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga, as well as the strong foundations of the Destination AKL 2025 strategy, we have developed a framework that will inform an overarching Destination AKL Recovery Plan.

The framework outlines a phased approach that takes into account a ‘new normal’, requiring us to think differently about how we rebuild. Although the Government’s Covid-19 alert system and Ministry of Health guidelines will ultimately determine recovery phases and timeframes, the framework identifies five-stages we can work through to systematically rebuild our visitor economy.

Over the next few weeks, we will engage widely, leveraging our existing relationships and building new ones, to ensure that the plan is co-created with stakeholders across the sector. If we bring a collaborative approach to this process, this will help deliver a plan that aligns our efforts and can accelerate recovery. We expect to launch the plan in June.

Importantly, cohesive, representative regional plans will help inform and support the development of the National Plan that Tourism New Zealand has been tasked with leading. Strong, co-ordinated regional input from across the country will be critical to the national plan’s success.

The knowledge and expertise within the RTO network is now more important than it has ever been. Although we work within defined territorial boundaries, we need to work more closely, share our thinking and planning, and strengthen our collective voice in support of [executive officer] Charlie Ives and RTNZ. 

Looking forward to major events

Business and major events can also be an important catalyst for gradual recovery. Despite current headwinds, we have a golden opportunity to spotlight Auckland and New Zealand as a visitor destination throughout our largest (planned) year of major events in 2021.

Although the way these events are delivered will fundamentally change, we remain committed to doing something special. Our teams are working hard within their respective programmes, mindful of the need to adapt aspects of each event in line with the prevailing guidance from central government. Once the longer-term picture around mass gatherings has been fully considered, we will work with event operators to deliver a revised events programme that will help boost our communities and our regional economy.

While working remotely, our talented marketing team also produced a video that showcases the essence and stillness of Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland; Papatūānuku (our earth mother) is Breathing. This video has deeply resonated with many people here and abroad, going viral with its simple message: This is a time of rest; take a moment to appreciate the beauty and stillness of the world around us. It’s also a reminder that, while the world may not be able to visit at the moment, this place and its wonderful people and unique experiences will be waiting for them when the time is right.

Video Credits:

Bird Sound Recording Source: Department of Conservation
Audio was edited and adapted to suit the video CC BY 4.0 licence terms 
Taonga pūoro: Moana and the Moahunters


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