Wanaka struggling to attract tourists

Skiers enjoy the sun outside the Treble Cone ski area base building in September 2010. Skiing is...
Skiers enjoy the sun outside the Treble Cone ski area base building in September 2010. Skiing is an important part of the Wanaka tourism scene. Photo Treble Cone.

Lake Wanaka Tourism is reporting a challenging past year for its 413 members, as the town grapples with cuts in flights to Wanaka Airport, dwindling airline passengers and the continued effects of the global economic recession.

The organisation holds its annual meeting tomorrow night.

The annual reports reveal that in the last financial year, the global recession bit harder in Wanaka than in previous years.

"This year has been a challenging year for many of our members and for the New Zealand economy and while the guest statistics are very positive, there are members who have not experienced some of the growth that appears to have shown in the monthly New Zealand statistics report. However, it is very pleasing to see that Wanaka is well above the numbers shown for Queenstown," chairman Ross McRobie said.

Total annual guest nights spent in Wanaka were 641,113, up 7.8% from 2010, with international guest nights of 392,110 rising 9.5% and domestic guest nights of 245,002 up 3.5%.

General manager James Helmore said awareness and accessibility remained the two challenging issues for Wanaka in the year ahead.

He said the global financial crisis was "biting deeper, causing our key long-haul markets of US, UK and Europe to look decidedly ill." Flooding in Queensland, no snow at the start of winter, and earthquakes in Christchurch drastically affected visitor itineraries and the perception of safety in New Zealand, he said.

Mr McRobie said marketing activity over the past year had been positively received and the website and social media tools showed good growth.

In the last year, Lake Wanaka Tourism supported major events Challenge Wanaka, Winter Games NZ, World Heli Challenge, Festival of Colour, NZ Mountain Film Festival and the Contact Epic.

He wrote that Wanaka Airport remained critical to increasing visitor numbers and said it was disappointing Eagle Air had signalled a further reduction in daily services to one a day.

Mr Helmore said positives included the opening of the Southeast Asia market by airlines, the Trenz tourism trade show in the southern region this year and continued uptake and support for the Lake Wanaka Lifestyle Reserve brand identity.

Lake Wanaka Tourism was the first-ranked regional tourism organisation, within its funding tier, for its website and social media activity, and sixth overall compared with all 29 regional tourism organisations, Mr Helmore said.

The targeted tourism rate on Wanaka businesses, also described as member subscriptions, is collected by the council.

Takings rose from $12,691 last year to $20,618 this year, while QLDC grants rose from $515,248 to $592,919.

Total income rose from $581,997 to $664,403.



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