Tourism operators fear impact of council marketing move

Dunedin tourism operators are apprehensive about changes to the city's marketing agency.

Conflicts of interest could arise with the Dunedin City Council (DCC) taking the reins by scrapping Tourism Dunedin, some said yesterday.

The council has revealed it will create an in-house marketing agency to promote Dunedin business, education and tourism.

The concept, considered since last year, could be implemented by July.

Larnach Castle director Norcombe Barker said he and other tourism operators were concerned about how the new agency would work, and the potential for conflicts of interest in promoting council-owned assets and tourism operations in competition with private businesses.

The former Dunedin Host chairman said members had been opposed to the in-house model for some time.

''There are a lot of conflicts of interest there, which concerns us greatly,'' he said.

He would watch with interest who influenced marketing and promotion of council-owned venues such as the Forsyth Barr Stadium and the Dunedin Centre, as a competitor.

''When the DCC goes away to promote Dunedin, will it promote its own products or private business?'' Mr Barker said the change also meant tourism was no longer the sole focus of an organisation, but one facet of Dunedin's promotion, and was ''not high on the agenda any more''.

''Time will tell how this pans out, and I just hope it doesn't put us backwards.''

Dunedin Host chairwoman Kylie Ruwhiu-Karawana said members were nervous about the potential, under the new model, for not being as involved in decision-making as before.

She said there were good reasons why the majority of marketing agencies were external, and said Tourism New Zealand's external relationship with the Ministry of Tourism was a good example of what worked well in the industry.

An in-house model might limit opportunities to market and sell tourism products at the same time, she said.

''We've got to be sure the people in that body understand the difference between tourism management and tourism marketing,'' she said.

Regional Tourism Organisations New Zealand executive officer Charlie Ives said the country's 29 RTOs were structured depending on the circumstances and requirements of each region.

There was no standard model, and the in-house agency structure was working in some places, he said.


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