Dunedin: it’s all right here, but let’s build on that

Rachel Elder.
Rachel Elder.
Investing in facilities, events and attractions is growing Dunedin’s economy, writes Rachel Elder.

International tourism is now New Zealand’s top export earner worth $14.5billion to our economy.

At its present rate of growth, it is set to double in the next seven years. The tourism industry now employs one  in 13 people in New Zealand.

The domestic tourist spend is  $20.2billion and growing. Dunedin’s tourism sector was worth  more than  $690million  to our local economy for  2016 which provides  about 15% of Dunedin’s overall gross domestic product. It is second only to education as an economic driver for the city. 

ASB economist Daniel Snowden commented (ODT, 1.5.17): "Overall, the New Zealand tourism sector is in rude health. Demand is strong but the main short-term challenge is for the infrastructure to meet demand."

Dunedin is a stunning destination with a beautiful harbour, abundant outdoor attractions, wildlife viewing, beautiful built heritage and rich cultural offerings. Having talked to many tourists, they love the unexpected treasures and nooks and crannies they  find here.

As ratepayers, you are seeing a fantastic return on your investment in our many cultural offerings with the  Toitu Otago Settlers Museum,  Otago Museum,  art gallery  and Chinese garden not only enriching our lives but also of those who visit here.

We have also invested in great facilities that enable events and conferences here. We have upgraded the town hall and Glenroy Auditorium, built the Forsyth Barr Stadium and  set up a great business in Dunedin Venues Management Limited to capitalise on them. We have more international rugby, cricket, league and other sports keen to play here. We are attracting a wide variety of acts, with Ed  Sheeran the latest offering. Other acts have  included  drifting  and  Nitro Circus. 

The Highlanders Super Rugby franchise  is  supported by a huge fan base and  brings pride to the city. All these offerings not only attract visitors  but also mean we are becoming more of a happening place to live.

Adding festivals and cornerstone events to our calendar throughout the year  means there is always something happening that we can market as attractions,  be it the Vogel Street Party,  iD Fashion Week,  midwinter carnivals, Chinese New Year and recently the Wild Dunedin  celebrations and events.

We did not pay for our beautiful harbour and hills which are a jewel in our crown, with many people visiting attracted to our wildlife and winding roads with fantastic views. We have capitalised on the harbourside though, with quaint little villages alongside offering art, food and lodgings. A place to meander and enjoy.

Our built heritage is getting stronger by the day with the Vogel  St  precinct adding to this and more urban renewal to come. Alongside this is a growing public and street art culture which is adding colour and intrigue  to the urban landscape. As a tertiary city, we have many domestic and international students arriving every year. Their parents often come and stay more than once. We also have many professionals visiting our campuses and hospital. The university, polytech and hospital also host professional conferences  which  are attracted to Dunedin as a conference destination.

Business events are an important market to Dunedin as delegates stay longer, spend more and travel traditionally in winter and shoulder seasons. Domestic travellers spend  about $504 a day and international delegates $334 per day in the host region (MBIE Convention Delegate Survey Report December 2016), nearly three times that of the leisure traveller. Business events have an equally important flow-on effect for the city in facilitating knowledge exchange, building international relationships and networks, raising the profile of our tertiary institutions and supporting growth and investment in key sectors.

The exponential growth in international and domestic tourists, immigration and the opportunities available through conferences and events represents a global trend that is exciting, creating many and varied opportunities to grow our economy.

Building the infrastructure for tourism, conferences and events will create work for our engineers, architects, tradespeople and labourers and will provide the opportunity for our young people to do apprenticeships. We have a huge opportunity to build or restore a  range of accommodation to meet the varied needs of  visitors,  from five star hotels to boutique  B&Bs. The tourist, event and conference spend is wide-reaching,  benefiting our artists and craftspeople, retail owners and the central business district, restaurants and cafes plus  more in the traditional and accommodation and travel spend.

Growing our tourism, conference and events infrastructure and offerings will make Dunedin’s economy stronger, offering a  range of employment and business opportunities. It will also make it a more vibrant and happening place to live.

- Rachel Elder is a Dunedin city councillor.

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