Wairarapa reels in visitors
Tourism in Wairarapa is experiencing a lift with more people coming and staying longer.
Improved domestic and international economic conditions are a big driver behind the improved numbers but over and above that Wairarapa is one of the star performers nationwide.
Almost 1.5 million people visit Wairarapa every year and last November guest nights rose by over 13 per cent on the same month the previous year.
Destination Wairarapa marketing manager Barbara Hyde says it is exciting to see the jump which can be attributed to several factors.
The regional tourism organisation takes a proactive approach to promoting the region and has embraced new media with open arms as it endeavours "to inspire" people to come to Wairarapa and spend more money while they are here.
Ms Hyde says they take a four- pronged approach to promoting Wairarapa and generating more tourism income which includes getting the region in front of people through: social media, database mail-outs, media coverage and partnerships with industry organisations.
On the social media front, Destination Wairarapa (DW) has not only enhanced their presence on the internet, they are also targeting particular demographics with boosted Facebook promotion and focussing on increasing their page likes. Over the holiday period they managed to bump up their Facebook page likes by 20 per cent up to nearly 9000.
"Social media is hugely important in helping people make decisions and keeping them informed. As an influencing channel, it is a timely, efficient and manageable resource for a small team like us," Ms Hyde says.
The region's new website www.wairarapanz.com, which was launched last October, is also a major development. It is a more professional and user-friendly site with more extensive content. Combined with print promotions with partners such as the Wharekauhau Luxury Resort, they have received good levels of new visitors to the site, which is now engineered to work well on mobile devices. Web traffic statistics show a huge jump in readership of the website via cellphones and tablets, which now constitute around 40 per cent of all site visits - almost double that of the previous year.
The tourism organisation also does a lot of work with print media to get positive Wairarapa stories on travel pages in newspapers and magazines.
"We've gone from just hoping people will write about us to making sure that they do," she says.
They do this by suggesting story angles and experiences as well as hosting writers from publications with proven track records and good readership.
Copthorne Solway Park Hotel & Resort general manager Jerry Crump says they are "cautiously optimistic about the year ahead with a 2 per cent increase in rooms sold predicted in 2014.
Trust House owns the Copthorne and is a significant funder of Destination Wairarapa so it is in their interest that the regional tourism organisation's marketing for the region is working.
"We're a very enthusiastic member of Destination Wairarapa. We work very closely with Barb [Hyde] and David [Hancock] and Sarah [Renall]. We're very happy with the work they do - very impressive. They play a big part in getting more and more people here, there's no doubt about that," Mr Crump says.
Around 70 per cent of their bookings are made via the internet, which is in contrast to less than 20 per cent 10 years ago.
The car enthusiasts market is a good example of how Destination Wairarapa has transformed itself from a passive to proactive organisation. Instead of just answering inquiries from car clubs and event organisers, DW sent out a kit to car clubs across New Zealand with material about all the facilities in Wairarapa and potential itineraries and great driving routes to make the most of the visit.
"It's all about inspiring people to come and do more.
"It's moved from passively waiting for the phone to ring to actually pitching ideas and getting them out there into the right hands," Ms Hyde says.
DW has 274 members and has partnerships with other tourism promotion organisations. See www.wairarapanz.com
Wairarapa visitor numbers (2012)
Total 1.46 million
Domestic visitors 1.34 million:
Wellington 60 per cent
Manawatu 14.5 per cent
International Visitors 116,000:
Australia 38.8 per cent
UK 16.5 per cent
USA 10.8 per cent
Total estimated annual spend $136 million
Domestic spend $121 million
International Spend $15 million