A series of unmet targets led Dunedin city councillors
this week to question whether Tourism Dunedin could handle more
But the organisation's board says it has confidence in the
chief executive and his team, and the chief executive says
Tourism Dunedin is working hard to attract more visitors and
while the tough times might continue for some years yet,
there are bright spots ahead.
The questions came as councillors considered Tourism
Dunedin's half-year report to September 2012, which showed a
decline in guest nights in the city, including a sharp 17.5%
fall in international visitor nights despite an increase in
domestic visitor nights.
Dunedin was the only Otago area with a decline in
international guest nights.
Cr Paul Hudson pointed out that of 18 targets with known
outcomes at that stage, Tourism Dunedin was on track to meet,
or had met, only seven.
He questioned whether the council, which is about to form a
single city marketing agency led by Tourism Dunedin, should
be giving the organisation more responsibility.
Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said the main
issues were the global financial crisis and the Canterbury
earthquakes, which were still affecting visitor numbers to
the South Island. The earthquakes were likely to do so for a
several years yet.
International visitor numbers were trending downwards
generally, with mainly North Island destinations gaining from
Christchurch's problems. Those visitors who were coming to
the South Island were heading to Queenstown, which, with its
international hotel chains and increased transtasman flights,
was increasingly becoming the gateway to the South Island.
The number of Chinese visitors to New Zealand was increasing
but they mainly went to Auckland for short stays and with
Dunedin geographically remote and expensive to get to,
travellers needed more time to come to the city.
He said Tourism Dunedin went to ''great pains and lengths''
to extol the virtues of Dunedin as a travel destination and
was working hard to get the city included in tour itineraries
for the long-haul market. That was made harder by the fact
that it did not have access to the same corporate marketing
and investment resources other destinations had.
But there were some positives for Dunedin. Guest night
figures did not take into account the 220,000 cruise ship
passengers that visited this year, and business guest nights
were about to pick up with the reopening of the Dunedin
Centre in April. Roughly 8000 guest nights were expected from
bookings already taken for conferences between April and the
end of the year.
And there was a busy period coming up to the end of April
with major events, including the Paul Simon and Aerosmith
concerts, expected to fill the city.
Linking the dunedinnz.com website to search engines was also
increasing the number of visitors to it.
The number of business and friends-and-family visitors from
Australia was increasing and domestic visitor figures were
good, limited only by the organisation's lack of a budget to
market the city to people beyond Canterbury.
To Cr Paul Hudson, who asked if the targets they set were too
high, Mr Saxton said forecasting was based on national
forecasts and international events could change the whole
market in a moment. Tourism Dunedin tried to set reasonable
targets but it was also obliged to be aspirational.
Tourism Dunedin board chairman Barry Timmings said it
supported Mr Saxton's efforts to make Tourism Dunedin into a
modern organisation both strategically and structurally
during five years of economically difficult conditions.
Its members believed he had achieved that and had complete
confidence in the Tourism Dunedin team, and would have
brought any concerns, had they had any, to the council. The
new, wider approach to marketing Dunedin was exactly what was
needed, he said.
Cr Syd Brown said the city was vibrant and bright with cruise
ship visitors at the moment, and councillors needed to be
less critical and support this, he said.
Cr Teresa Stevenson asked that a list of the specific
projects and work Tourism Dunedin was doing to achieve its
goals be included in future reports.