RWC fails to bring hotel guests

JIM CHIPP
Last updated 09:36 07/02/2013
Chris Parkin
JIM CHIPP
Disappointed: The Rugby World Cup didn't bring guests to Chris Parkin's Museum Hotel.

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The Wellingtonian

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Despite the pre-event hype, visitor numbers actually fell during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. That is Wellington hotelier Chris Parkin's view, and Statistics New Zealand's analysis bears it out.

"Instead of producing a bumper year, it produced a pretty average year because the relatively small gains from matches in Wellington were in part affected by normal business staying away in droves," Mr Parkin said.

Mr Parkin, who owns the Museum Hotel, said would-be travellers from New Zealand assumed there would be no accommodation available.

The cup attracted about 100,000 visitors to New Zealand during the World Cup month.

"A hundred thousand visitors sounds quite impressive, but our annual visitor count evens out at not far short of 200,000 a month. So what we are talking about is half of one month's travel," Mr Parkin said.

Statistics New Zealand figures support Mr Parkin's impression.

They show rises in international visitors were offset by falls in domestic guest nights, resulting in a net gain of 0.3 per cent for September and a fall of 1.5 per cent for October, compared to 2010.

Wellington City Council spent $1.8 million on Festival of Carnivale content, fan zone costs, security, tournament costs and training venue costs, aiming to achieve an economic benefit of about $45 million.

It also spent $150,000 of commercial ratepayers' money on a village around the Wharewaka, $350,000 for a Rugby World Cup sculpture by Weta Workshop, $350,000 of general rates on extra street cleaning and $37,000 upgrading Newtown Park.

Mr Parkin said there was no dispute that the cup was good for the nation as a whole, particularly because New Zealand won.

"We are perhaps starting to recover our confidence on the world stage. The New Zealand dollar is very strong [and] that's how the world tends to measure your economic success."

But there were other events ratepayers' money could be spent on for a better return, he said.

The best investment for Wellington was the World of Wearable Arts because it brought visitors from outside over a longer period.

"Events we want to fund are ones that occur annually, over a longer period of time, and result in a steady flow of visitors."

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said the agency spent $194,000 on cup events, mostly aimed at optimising its economic benefits.

Positively Wellington Tourism's monitoring of hotel guest nights found an increase of six per cent in September 2011 over the previous year followed by a 2 per cent decline in October.

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However, there had been a significant shift from domestic travellers to international tourists, bringing gains to the national balance of payments.

He said events affected different areas of the local economy. The World of Wearable Arts had a strong impact on retail, whereas the Rugby World Cup's impact was more general.

SETTING REALISTIC TARGETS

Shane Evans, who manages the Bay Plaza and West Plaza hotels and Nomads backpacker hostel, disagrees with Mr Parkin. "I budgeted across my three hotels for a 10 per cent increase. We achieved exactly that," he said. "It was a bit over-hyped originally, but you have got to recognise that it was a national tournament and not everyone is going to come to Wellington."

The Christchurch earthquakes cost Wellington some tourist trade, he said. Visitors had been expected to pass through Wellington on their way north after Christchurch games, but they were all re-allocated elsewhere after the destruction of AMI Stadium.

"On balance, I think the Rugby World Cup was fantastic, but my expectations weren't as high as Chris'."

- The Wellingtonian

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