So much achieved, so much to come

Annabel Berry
Annabel Berry
Annabel Berry has resigned as chairwoman and director of the Tourism Waitaki Board to focus on her growing family and her interior design and marketing business. She reflects on her involvement in tourism in Waitaki since 2010, first as Tourism Waitaki general manager, then as board director, with Otago Daily Times reporter Rebecca Ryan.

What have you enjoyed about being involved in tourism in the Waitaki district?
First and foremost, I have been proud of the small team of people who work for Tourism Waitaki, Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, i-Site and Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.

They are on the front line and they go above and beyond the call of duty to deliver top-notch tourism services for our district.

From a marketing perspective I am particularly proud of our regional approach, encompassing the whole district.

What Tourism Waitaki and other promoters of our great district have been doing is working.

Tourism statistics support a solid increase in visitor numbers to our district over the past three years since the earthquakes, with a 22.7% increase in total visitors for the year ended May 31 and an increased length of stay from 1.51 to 1.53 nights and an increase in occupancy rates from 16.1% to 18.6%.

The growth is coming equally from international and domestic visitors.

Tourism success stories in the Waitaki district in recent times: Oamaru's  Blue Penguin Colony....
Tourism success stories in the Waitaki district in recent times: Oamaru's Blue Penguin Colony. Photos from the ODT files.
How have things changed in the past five years?
There are a lot of positive developments happening in our community and I believe a greater feeling of local pride.

There are some incredibly talented next-generation business owners and leaders coming through who want to ensure Oamaru and Waitaki are going to grow and thrive.

We are here for the long term and by working together we will achieve a great deal.

I certainly am going to continue to be part of this and encouraging a supportive environment for businesses to help each other out and grow this district.

How can Waitaki benefit from establishing itself as a tourism hot spot?
Tourism has the ability to bring many positive aspects to our community - to assist with regional economic development, the establishment of new business opportunities and creation of jobs.

A 2013 Business and Economic Research Ltd economic report shows that tourism in Waitaki has grown strongly both in the short and longer terms and employment in the sector has grown more quickly than employment in the wider district economy.

The report also shows that the tourism sector in Waitaki has outperformed the sector nationally in terms of employment, GDP and business units growth between 2003 and 2013.

There are many reasons for this and strategies that Tourism Waitaki has been part of have contributed to this, none less than being part of the establishment of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.

Tourism also has positive social effects when looking at improving our infrastructure and amenities, which has benefits for the wider community.

Tourism Waitaki has directly contributed to developments in the harbour area over the past 10 years, including the new playground and a world-class facility at the Penguin Colony, and assisted with bringing events and activities like the farmers market to the precinct area.

We have much to be proud of here in the Waitaki: our natural environment, heritage and culture, food and wine (and now beer!), and a growing leisure and adventure tourism sector coupled with a thriving rural landscape.

Helen Brookes admires a cast of an ancient shark-toothed dolphin at the Vanished World Centre in...
Helen Brookes admires a cast of an ancient shark-toothed dolphin at the Vanished World Centre in Duntroon in 2005.
What challenges does the Waitaki district face?
Our biggest challenge is always standing out in a marketing space against not only 24 other regional tourism organisations but also international markets as well.

Tourism is a highly competitive environment and we have limited resources and spend to compete with, so we not only have to be clever, we have to be consistent and maximise our budgets wisely.

There are many ways this budget can be spent, and a lot of different ideas, but the most efficient way is with a co-ordinated marketing and communications plan that has consistent messages across all platforms.

The utilisation of social media options is also a very cost-effective way to market.

What are some of the most exciting opportunities for the district?
Without a doubt the establishment of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is our biggest opportunity in the next couple of years.

This is more than a cycle trail. We invested in this product because of the positive wider-reaching effect for our community.

The precinct and heritage of our town is a key element and a new strategy from the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust is an exciting development.

I also believe we have more opportunities within geological tourism with the Vanished World, Dead Precious exhibitions and Elephant Rocks, Moeraki Boulders, Earthquakes, Clay Cliffs and limestone.

Food and wine has become a really strong aspect of our region, with award-winning producers and restaurants.

More and more we are recognised in both local and international markets as being a key player for those who want to experience something authentic, real and diverse.

Tourism Waitaki will be launching an updated tourism strategy this year focused on all of these elements and targeting specific markets.

national cycle trail programme manager John Dunn and Alps 2 Ocean joint committee chairman Mike...
national cycle trail programme manager John Dunn and Alps 2 Ocean joint committee chairman Mike Neilson cycle the Pukaki section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail in 2012
What is your vision of the Waitaki district in five years' time?
I see throngs of people in lycra cycling into our district to eat in our cafes, buy products and services in our shops, stay in our accommodation and participate in all of our activities.

I see them happy, with a look of discovery and wonder at all of our incredible assets.

I see some of them moving here because they are so blown away.

I see a group of strong leaders ensuring that our district is celebrated by both visitors and locals and I will be a part of that - so watch this space.

Mrs Berry gave birth to her third child, Bo Robert Thomas Berry, on Sunday and is now turning her focus to family, her business, Design Federation, and family business Whitestone Cheese.

Marcus Brown has been appointed acting chairman of the Waitaki Tourism board.

The Waitaki District Council will be recruiting a replacement director in coming weeks.

 

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