Closure timing 'appalling'
Right before the busy visitor season, Orewa and Kumeu i-SITES will close and their staff will lose jobs.
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development is closing five i-SITEs across Auckland on December 14, after a review of the service.
Orewa and Kumeu will close, as will Takapuna, Bombay and Pukekohe i-SITEs.
Closures are put down to running cost deficits and changes in visitor research.
"The way visitors access information has changed dramatically in recent years, with visitors increasingly adopting a self-service approach," ATEED chief executive Brett O'Riley says.
"They are using the internet, smart phones and other mobile devices such as iPads for their travel research and planning, and making tourism bookings."
"We are no longer able to justify the deficits run up by these five i-SITES, forecast to be $2.7 million over the next four years."
But the affected communities, tourist providers and employees disagree.
"The visitor's book shows it all, people are up in arms about our closure," Orewa i-SITE's Kelly Clark says.
Fellow staffer Claire Moss says: "A lot of people still aren't booking online, like ATEED has suggested."
"It doesn't stack up why they are closing us down, especially in early December. We have around 100 people a day come through here over the busy period.
"They don't quantify the service we provide."
Destination Orewa Beach manager Leanne Smith says the move means ATEED isn't following its own strategic direction for i-SITES.
Mrs Smith says the strategy to "retain sites in high tourist traffic flow areas" is good, but the retention of sites at Devonport and Waiheke over Orewa doesn't make sense.
"Even though the Orewa centre is in a poor location and set too far from the road so visually you can't see it, the tourist figures are higher than Devonport's," she says.
"To get to those two sites tourists travel through Princess Wharf, where the big i-SITE is located.
"Orewa is run on council-owned land, whereas the i-SITE on Waiheke is leased.
"And as for the strategy to retain a strong i-SITE-branded physical presence regionally . . ."
Auckland Council Rodney representative Penny Webster says the closure of the Kumeu i-SITE is particularly disappointing.
"I was a bit concerned in the way in which it was handled," Mrs Webster says. "I would have got the key stakeholders together from the area who have been involved in the industry to sit down and work out the best way forward, but they didn't do that, they just closed it."
Mrs Webster says she agrees that visitor centres don't have the numbers they used to, but people still need an area to go to for information.
"ATEED want to use libraries and service centres, but there needs to be signage and people need to know that."
Mr O'Riley says the new structure will be more effective.
Twenty staff and managers will be affected by the change, but ATEED is offering redeployment priority in other roles within the organisation.
Orewa i-SITE employee Mrs Clark says she, along with others she has spoken with, will take redundancy.
"It's just before Christmas, the timing is appalling," she says.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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