City planning single marketing arm

Total responsibility for marketing Dunedin to the outside world will not be transferred to Tourism Dunedin, after a series of concerns were raised about a proposal to do so.

Dunedin city councillors have decided the city's marketing functions should still be brought into a single agency, as proposed in the council's draft annual plan for 2013-14, but not one run by Tourism Dunedin, after concerns that would not meet the main aim of having a consistent city marketing message.

In the meantime, the status quo would remain while a steering group considered options for setting up the agency, including establishing a council-owned organisation (CCO) or the council delivering all marketing functions in-house.

Investigating a single marketing agency is one of the projects outlined in the city's economic development strategy.

The proposal outlined in the draft annual plan was to merge city-wide marketing activities into a single marketing agency that would co-ordinate tourism, events, investment, skills and migrant promotion and attraction efforts, as well as be responsible for city branding and operate Dunedin's i-Site.

The aim was more efficient and effective marketing activity.

Corporate policy manager Nicola Pinfold told councillors - in a report they discussed in non-public deliberations on the draft plan on Wednesday and released publicly last night - that a range of business, tourism, venues and events groups had been consulted on the proposal since January and 19 submissions on it were received through the annual plan process.

There was a general consensus there should be one marketing agency, but concern about moving the responsibilities and budgets to Tourism Dunedin and having it create the agency, she said.

The proposal to move the i-Site outside council control received little support, she said.

Concerns included that the new agency would not achieve consistency in marketing messages because marketing within the city would still be done by the council and DVML and that there was a risk, or at least a perception, the agency would be biased towards tourism.

Ms Pinfold said consistent marketing messages could still be achieved if there was an established culture of collaboration between the agencies, but past experience and the recent consultation process demonstrated there was ''room for improvement'' there.

There was also doubt whether Tourism Dunedin would have the capacity for an expanded role, as the staff's experience related primarily to tourism.

The proposal would result in few cost savings for the council.

She said a new CCO would have the benefits of recruiting the best people and being seen to be impartial. However, it would have board and accommodation costs.

Bringing together marketing within and outside Dunedin into the council appeared to offer the most effective means of ensuring full alignment of marketing messages.

Dunedin Host chairman Norcombe Barker said he was surprised about the move, as Dunedin tourism businesses had expected it would go ahead, but it was better to get it right the first time, he said.

Mayor Dave Cull said he hoped the steering group would start its work within weeks.

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