Friday, 30 October 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Regional travel to have major impact on economic recovery

Kiwis will be told to holiday just as if they were overseas when regional travel resumes under Covid-19 Alert Level 2.

How well they take on that message is likely to have a major impact on the economic recovery of Mercury Bay and the Coromandel Peninsula as a whole. But Destination Coromandel general manager, Hadley Dryden, is optimistic about the potential opportunities should the advice hit home.

Around 200 tourism operators throughout the Coromandel and the Waikato signed into an online regional industry webinar on Friday last where speakers included Minister of Tourism, Kelvin Davis and chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, Stephen England-Hall.

Mr Davis said a major domestic campaign was ready to be launched nationally which would not only encourage travel, but push spending on eating out and visitor experiences. Mr England-Hall said Kiwis typically had a different attitude when holidaying at home, which often involved staying with friends or just relaxing at the beach. The new campaign would aim to help them view parts of New Zealand as new destinations to explore, where they try new things - just as they would when they travel to other countries.

Mr Dryden said the prospect of such a marketing strategy was exciting for the Coromandel where domestic tourists already account for 80 per cent of total visits, but spending per person is low. While competition for the tourist dollar will be intense, the Peninsula’s popularity - particularly within the drive markets of Auckland, Hamilton and Bay of the Plenty - means it is well placed to reap the rewards of any additional marketing. He said adding value to their product and being creative in terms of what they could offer would be important for tourism operators and accommodation providers.

Mr Davis confirmed work on a trans-Tasman bubble was continuing at pace, but warned that international visitors from any other parts of the world would be unlikely before the end of the year. Linda Bird from DiveZone Whitianga said her business was already seeing new interest from Australia. “We liaise with offshore specialist dive travel agents and have had initial enquiries looking at where to send their dive customers instead of those usual tropical destinations,” she told The Informer. “Obviously, New Zealand is a good consideration for them once our borders open to Australia. I am sure this is not the only travel agent across the Tasman eyeing up New Zealand as a good destination to offer their clientele for all the other types of activities and holidays that are on offer here.

With diving prohibited, DiveZone Whitianga has been closed for the duration of Covid-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, and is anticipating a gradual return to normal operations. “We are looking forward to seeing our tertiary students being able to return once we reach Level 2 to continue their learning towards the Diploma in Professional Scuba Instruction/PADI Dive Instructor,” Linda said. “With social distancing requirements, this is going to take some extra management and we have plans to deal with that. We envisage our retail/recreational market is going to be very much locally based for some time.”

The mood of the tourism/accommodation sector appeared cautiously optimistic at a recent Destination Coromandel online meeting where details of a series of promotions to attract visitors over the next nine to 12 months were revealed. Several accommodation providers were already reporting advance bookings, some for as early as later this month.

Thames-Coromandel  District Council mayor, Sandra Goudie said the restart of regional travel was a hugely important step for the Peninsula. “The opportunity for people to travel domestically will be a light on the horizon for those in our visitor industry,” she said. “Our holiday homeowners will be hanging out to get back to the Coromandel, as will other people keen to get out of the cities and see some of our sights. The next school holidays will provide opportunities too.”

Picture courtesy of DiveZone Whitianga 

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.