12 April 17: International recognition for the Waikato tourism region

Waikato has become New Zealand’s first ‘tourism observatory’ joining the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) international network of sustainable tourism observatories.

The observatory is a research-led programme which is hosted by the University of Waikato Management School and will focus on two major tourist locations in the region – Raglan and Waitomo.

Tourism observatories monitor the economic, environmental and social impact of tourism at a destination level. Through regular monitoring of tourism, it helps to better understand resource use and foster responsible tourism management.

The Waikato region joins 18 observatories in operation worldwide including those in countries like China, Indonesia, Jamaica, Morocco and the United States.

As our tourism sector continues to experience continuous growth, it’s important to measure the impacts which provides robust evidence for well-informed decision making.

For Raglan, it’s about strengthening the world-famous surfing town as a sustainable destination. This aligns well with community aspirations and the ‘Raglan Naturally’ Plan.

In Waitomo, it’s about responsibly growing their tourism industry while continuing to sustainably manage the unique landscapes and biodiversity of the area, as well as their iconic caves.

The initial research will concentrate on establishing a baseline to assess trends in Raglan by concentrating on the perceptions and satisfaction levels – from local residents and visitors (domestic and international).

Future research areas will include economic benefits and tourism seasonality through to long-term measurement activities related to waste management, housing issues and water supply.

The project is being administered by Professor Chris Ryan at the University of Waikato Management School and is fully supported by Waikato District Council, Raglan Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton & Waikato Tourism.

It also has the backing of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Paula Bennett.

“The Waikato Tourism Monitoring Observatory is a wonderful initiative that will provide valuable data over time to support the tourism sector to maximise its contribution to the economy, while ensuring our visitors enjoy high-quality experiences” says Ms Bennett.

With the immediate growth in volume of visitor numbers into our region, it’s important to not only assess the economic benefits, but start to consider and monitor environmental impacts. This is especially relevant given the pressures we experience during the peak summer period.

The research project will allow us to also track the effectiveness of driving visitation into our shoulder seasons and the dispersal of visitors around the region.

What we learn will not only benefit Raglan and Waitomo, it can also be applied to other areas of the region, New Zealand and the world.

By Jason Dawson
Chief Executive, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism is the regional tourism organisation charged with increasing international and domestic visitor numbers, expenditure and stay. The organisation is funded through a public/private partnership and covers the heartland Waikato areas of Hamilton City, Matamata-Piako, Otorohanga, South Waikato, Waipa, South Waikato and Waitomo Districts. Find out more: www.hamiltonwaikato.com