Close watch on virus effects

The Dunedin City Council’s economic development staff are keeping a "close watch" on the impact of the latest coronavirus on the number of visitors coming from China.

Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie, speaking during a council pre-draft annual plan meeting yesterday, was asked by Cr Andrew Whiley whether the global health scare was having an effect here.

Mr Christie responded, saying staff were keeping a close watch on that, and it appeared group tours coming from China — which made up one third of all visitors to the city from China — was hardest hit.

He did not specify an exact drop, but said staff would be watching.

The effect could also be felt in the city’s international student market, which included pupils from China studying in Dunedin, he said.

Dunedin high schools and tertiary institutions were in contact with the Ministry of Education to minimise any effect, he said.

The Otago Daily Times reported this week that while no cases of the potentially fatal illness have yet been discovered in New Zealand, schools nationally have been told by the Ministry of Education to err on the side of caution with sick pupils, especially those with connections to China, where the outbreak is centred.

Mr Christie was also asked yesterday whether the city was spending enough to promote itself in Australia, particularly in the key east coast market.

Mr Christie said Enterprise Dunedin — which had a $6.4million draft budget for 2020-21 — could always do more with more money, but was working hard to make best use of what it had.

The budget included about $990,000 spent on advertising in Australia, and Enterprise Dunedin also looked to piggyback on other centres’ efforts, he said.

That included trying to encourage international visitors flying in to Queenstown or Christchurch to spend time in Dunedin as well, he said.

The council was also looking at ways to support businesses when the redevelopment of George St began, he said.

There was no money in the budget for financial assistance, but the council would be working with businesses to minimise disruption, and seeking ways to encourage as many people as possible to use the area during the upgrade, he said.

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