'Ripple starts from centre out'

SLOW PROGRESS: Drawing international tourists to Auckland’s ‘‘natural gems’’ like Clevedon, which hosts an annual Ath&thP Show and a weekly market, could take years.
SLOW PROGRESS: Drawing international tourists to Auckland’s ‘‘natural gems’’ like Clevedon, which hosts an annual Ath&thP Show and a weekly market, could take years.

Getting more international tourists to visit the regions outside of central Auckland is going to take time, an expert says.

Mayor Len Brown wants to double the industry's earning potential in Auckland from $3 billion to $6 billion in the next decade.

Former Auckland Tourism chief executive Graeme Osborne says Mr Brown's vision is achievable.

But getting more of those dollars into the south, west and north of the city isn't going to happen overnight.

Now the associate dean at the Manukau Institute of Technology's school of business, Mr Osborne says much relies on the Chinese market expanding beyond current short-haul tours.

"Historically we have been reliant on traditional markets like the United Kingdom, United States and Japan. Now China is more of a player in that space."

But Chinese visitors spend much of their trip on the Auckland-Waitomo-Rotorua route, which limits their time in Auckland mainly to the central city, he says.

Once more Chinese tourists start visiting Auckland independently that could change, he says.

"Manukau, Waitakere and Rodney want to be able to take full advantage of that CBD power."

Another problem is a lack of transport connections from the city to outlying areas, with tourist numbers not high enough to justify shuttle services in the short term.

"At some stage someone has to bite the bullet and say, how do we develop this as a future project?"

Local government could play a role in fostering those connections and there could also be a case for a localised marketing spend that "highlights those regional gems".

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development tourism manager Jason Hill says it promotes specific parts of Auckland to different tourist markets.

At this stage Chinese tourists are more likely to spend time in the city centre, shopping and eating, while Germans, Australians and Americans travel more widely around Auckland, he says.

"Natural gems" like Clevedon, Matakana and the Waitakere Ranges give tourists a reason to stay longer while basing themselves in the central city, he says.

"It provides us with a point of difference; something special."

The growing number of visitors staying with friends and family, along with domestic tourists, tend to visit regional parts of the city on a regular basis.

Mr Hill says Auckland Transport is working hard on developing better public transport services but putting together options like shuttle services is largely up to the private sector.

Mr Brown says tourists aren't yet experiencing the full beauty Auckland has to offer. First he wants to increase the number of visitor nights people stay for.

"The aim is to get people to stay in the city three or four nights, not one-and-a-half."

He's also unapologetic about concentrating on improving the city centre before other parts of Auckland.

"It was about giving a major boost to the heart of where visitors, locally and internationally, come.

"It's a bit like dropping a pebble in a pond.

"The ripples start from the centre out."

Papakura Courier