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Dunedin residents will be urged later this year to start supporting the city and its many attractions as part of a campaign being driven by Tourism Dunedin and local tourism operators.
The "Love Dunedin" campaign has received $80,000 from the Dunedin City Council economic development unit's industry project fund.
The first phase of the campaign will be launched in July, at the same time as the Cadbury Chocolate Festival starts, and it will be aimed at building loyalty among Dunedin people who are often not seen as the best advocates for their city and its attractions.
Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said work had been carried out on creating an ongoing sustainable marketing campaign for the city to help overcome the projected tourism downturn.
"We can face the downturn by getting Dunedin together and facing it together - starting at home."
Research had showed that many New Zealanders were coming to Dunedin for a holiday, either to visit friends or family, but they were not partaking of the attractions or activities available, Mr Saxton said.
The reluctance to visit the attractions was based on the perception that costs were too high and that locals were unaware that there were deals for them if they were accompanied by a paying visitor.
Tourism Dunedin decided that the best way to promote the attractions with visitors was to grow the loyalty of locals.
The "Love Dunedin" campaign, of which the Otago Daily Times was a significant partner, had an estimated cost of $200,000.
The industry operators were providing $120,000 with the $80,000 grant making up the difference, he said.
"That's one of the greatest indicators of support from the tourist industry.
"We have gone out and asked for money and support and received it.
"We know the population is passionate and parochial and proud of their region.
"But we also know there are people who are a bit apologetic about living here and they are not the best ambassadors for the city.
"We want to create the best guides, hosts and ambassadors that we can."
The way to do that was to introduce special deals for locals, although not at the height of the season.
But between Easter and Labour Weekend it would become easier for locals to access the deals if they had a paying guest, Mr Saxton said.
At the recent Dunedin City Council expo, Mr Saxton was approached by several people suggesting a loyalty card should be introduced for locals visiting tourist attractions such as Larnach Castle, Olveston and the Taiaroa Head Albatross Centre.
Dunedin residents would be issued with a passport that had the potential for a loyalty rewards system to be included.
That would be distributed with the help of the Otago Daily Times.
The next phase would be to focus on the wider region and people who lived within a four-hour drive of Dunedin.
There reasons for coming to Dunedin were many and could include medical care, visiting children at boarding school, business or shopping, he said.
"The entertainment we can offer will add value to their visit and people may be attracted to stay longer.
Dunedin offers a truly wonderful global experience and we are up there in terms of tourist offerings with an international quality."
Tourism Dunedin was also considering ways of working with students, many of whom came from out of town.
If their parents visited and stayed longer, that, too, would help the local hospitality industry.
Students also needed to be encouraged to visit local tourist attractions.
"We could have so many ambassadors scattered around the world.
"We need them to see more than the student quarter."
Social network sites on the internet would also be used to promote Dunedin, Mr Saxton said.
That included blogs in a "word-of-mouth, word-of-mouse" approach.
Twitter and Facebook would be two of the networking sites targeted by Tourism Dunedin.
A website was likely to be set up for the Love Dunedin campaign.
"It's all very well for Tourism Dunedin to say this is a great place to visit but it needs to be a whole of city approach."