Unquestionably now the country’s number one export earner, tourism attracts more than 3.6 million visitors to New Zealand shores each year.
Tourism is now the largest contributor to our national economy – but did you know that the Hamilton and Waikato region has the fifth largest visitor expenditure in this country?
The team at Hamilton & Waikato Tourism are regularly reporting to our many stakeholders about the significant economic impact tourism is delivering for the region. The results are outstanding with tourism contributing more than $1.44 billion to the region each year, and still growing.
Hamilton and Waikato is in a very exciting position right now because we are in a growth phase. While some regions are positioning to drive or create growth, we are focused on managing and dealing with current and projected growth, which is a great opportunity and challenge for us.
We have worked hard for many years to promote our region as a ’must visit’ destination, both nationally and internationally, often alongside many of the iconic and emerging tourism businesses. Our collective marketing efforts are starting to pay off, with the current trend for international visitors to stay in Waikato for the first or last night of their visit to New Zealand.
One of the biggest challenges in our region is the shortage of large-scale commercial accommodation. We need to increase the number of properties across our region to meet current demand from conference organisers, travel trade and our growing free and independent traveller market.
Right now, Hamilton requires at least two hotels of a 4 – 4.5-star rating or higher, while regionally more quality accommodation is needed at iconic destinations like Waitomo, Matamata and Raglan. There is no shortage of demand, however we need investors to help develop these assets. Initiatives such as the recently-launched Hamilton Invest website (www.hamiltoninvest.co.nz) are helping to attract investment for accommodation and other tourism opportunities.
The high demand has also resulted in capacity constraints and placed pressure on infrastructure. The new Tourism Infrastructure Fund (TIF) administered by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) provides up to $25 million per year for the development of visitor-related public infrastructure such as carparks, freedom camping facilities, sewerage and water works.
While some of our local council areas will not meet the current funding criteria, those with high visitor numbers, small ratepayer bases and limited means to fund development, will have the opportunity to apply. We will continue to work with our local communities to actively seek central government funding and external investment for tourism infrastructure development.
Other developments we are working on to grow the value of tourism in our region are identified in the Tourism Opportunities Plan, creating a blueprint for the next 5-10 years. As an emerging tourism destination, we are working to develop tourism experiences around our key strengths as a region. For example, sports tourism, agri-tourism, Maori cultural tourism and food-related experiences are high on our agenda. To find out more, visit hamiltonwaikato.com/TOP
By working together, playing to our strengths as a visitor destination, and staying informed and connected; we are poised to leverage the future opportunities tourism will bring to our region.
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, Waipa, South Waikato and Waitomo Districts. Find out more: www.hamiltonwaikato.com
Article source: Waikato Business News. Written by Jason Dawson, Chief Executive of Hamilton & Waikato Tourism.