Tourism waits anxiously for greater funds

BY ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2009

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Tourism operators and industry lobby groups are holding their collective breath for greater financial backing from the Government for tourism marketing.

Tourism Minister John Key laid out plans this week for a Rugby World Cup 2011 "party central" base at Auckland's Queens Wharf.

But outside the City of Sails there is a view that marketing spending must be increased from the $70 million allocated each year to Tourism New Zealand.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar urged the Government to boost its funding to $130m yearly.

Mr Key said further funding would be announced by year's end.

`Spending on marketing, such as billboards in strategic cities, has already been a success in Australia,bringing visitors across the Tasman during May at numbers 20 per cent ahead of a year ago.

This week Mr Key's focus was on infrastructure, such as a national convention centre in Auckland's central business district, and a cruise ship interface for Queen's Wharf. The Government has also provided some funding towards rugby stadiums for cities like Christchurch and Dunedin. But no-one wants white elephants erected.

Associate professor of tourism at Victoria University Ian Yeoman warns of trends that could see more people staying at home.

Young Japanese, in particular, are more interested in gaming in the comfort of their homes than venturing out into the countryside, he says.

"Technology is becoming so good that should we go outside? Should we go walking? One of the trends is towards Friday night stay-at-homes. It is an `insperience'.

"Just imagine the Rugby World Cup in 2050 it's for TV rather than people, and stadiums are completely empty. You get that better experience in the home, you bring in friends and have a few beers."

To battle the trend he says more attention has to be paid to the personal experience.

Prof Yeoman says the industry should at some point reignite.

"In 1950, 25 million people took an international holiday across the world. In 2008, 900 million people took an international holiday and that's forecast to grow by 2030 to 1.9 billion people." Tourism had become established in countries like Afghanistan and Libya, giving much more choice.

Airlines are banking on a bounce-back in passenger numbers that have declined up to 10 per cent.

Australian-based Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan says it is difficult for airports building infrastructure to predict passenger trends due to shifts in consumer behaviour.

"We're seeing a global trend of trading up, trading down, and the commoditisation (of travel) at the lower end."

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Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton says there is no reason to see the Australian market drying up any time soon. He wants Australians to view New Zealand as a series of destinations and come back for multiple visits, in the same way as Kiwis view Australian cities.

- The Dominion Post

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