Waikato tourism operators are continuing to invest significantly to support the development and marketing of the region as a visitor destination.
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism’s annual report to councils shows a 20 per cent increase in funding from tourism operators from the previous year. For the year ending June 2014, industry operators put around $419,000 in cash into the regional tourism organisation’s activities plus more than $100,000 in ‘in-kind’ goods and services. That’s up from $350,000 the previous year.
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism (HWT) chief executive Kiri Goulter said growing financial support from the local industry was an endorsement of the last three years.
“A regional tourism organisation (RTO) was only re-established in 2011 and since then, we’ve had to work incredibly hard to promote the region and demonstrate benefits to our funding partners. We’re starting to see that pay off now in increased visitor activity across a range of measures,” she said.
The report to councils shows that commercial guest nights in the region were up 9.3 per cent compared to 5.4 per cent nationally. Guest arrivals for the year ending June 2014 were up 13.3 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.
“Without a doubt, it was another strong year for international visitors with five per cent growth in visitor nights. Domestic nights also increased, rising 10.6 per cent across the year. However we are still struggling to prove ourselves as a destination for domestic visitors and that’s a challenge going forward, ” Ms Goulter said.
“Overall, the Waikato has a low awareness among Kiwis as a destination despite having some of New Zealand’s best attractions.”
While domestic spending was maintained at previous levels, international spending was up. Total visitor spending for the year ending March 2013* was worth $1.07 billion to the Waikato economy. Spending by international visitors has been above average for the past three years, helped by the region’s iconic visitor attractions such as Hobbiton Movie Set and the Waitomo Caves.
Three years ago, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism re-established a convention bureau aimed at helping attract conferences and business events to the region.
“That was a pivotal move. Conference delegates are big spenders and from a tourism perspective are very valuable. There is now a much greater awareness of the region as a conference destination and an acknowledgement there are top quality facilities here,” Ms Goulter said.
“This year, we’ve sustained an 11 per share of the business events sector and in fact, we now have the largest share of delegate days behind Auckland and Wellington.
Based on expenditure, most international visitors to Hamilton and the Waikato were from Australia last year, followed by the UK and the US. A new joint campaign with Tourism NZ, other North Island RTOs and industry operators has recently launched targeting people living on the east coast of Australia.
The campaign will feature Waikato attractions including Hobbiton, Waitomo Caves, Raglan, Hamilton Gardens and Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
* 2014 data will be available from Statistics New Zealand in November
For further information call:
Kiri Goulter 021 686 057