Picton still a tourism problem child

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2014

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Picton's tourism operators are fragmented and need to unite to make the most of the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook's arrival in the Marlborough Sounds, Destination Marlborough says.

Destination Marlborough chairman Nigel Gould and general manager Tracy Johnston presented the regional tourism organisation's draft annual report and business plan to the Marlborough District Council last week.

As part of that, Gould said a Picton 2020 group was needed to get the town and the Marlborough Sounds ready to capture the opportunities with the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's first visit and stay in Ship Cove.

"Picton needs to be match-fit to capture that opportunity," he said.

Councillor David Oddie, who lives in Picton, asked what the regional tourism operator was doing to set up that group in Picton.

"In the early days, Tracy said all her problems were in Picton. That's still ongoing."

Operators in the town were just looking for something to keep them going day to day, he said. "You can say match-fit, but people are desperate to keep their businesses going."

Picton had a different feeling to the rest of the region, Oddie said. "They're pushing ahead with their own brand. They are fragmented there, but determined to push ahead with their own work because they're feeling neglected."

Gould said his biggest frustration was that there wasn't the buy-in from people that would give everyone the confidence to invest in their future. "We have to get that buy-in and confidence there."

Councillor Jessica Bagge said the Picton 2020 idea would be good if everyone was "on the same page with their aspirations".

She said there was a perception that some operators were being funded to attend events by Destination Marlborough that boosted their own businesses, not all the businesses in the region.

Johnston said one company had been funded to attend an event in Melbourne, but that was on the explicit expectation they would promote all the cycling opportunities in Marlborough, not just their own business.

Destination Marlborough trustee Barbara Faulls said she wanted to reassure councillors that she worked extensively with groups in Picton and elsewhere in Marlborough.

"I understand your concerns about the fracturing in Picton," she said. "From my perspective, Destination Marlborough has made a lot of offers to bring these groups into the fold. There is a reluctance from these groups to take up these offers, which is pretty frustrating.

"Extremely good offers have been put on the table, but some are reluctant to get over historic distrust of Destination Marlborough. They see it as Destination Marlborough extracting more money from them, rather than expanding their participation.

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"They have strong voices and project them to create that feeling of distrust."

The regional tourism organisation promoted the region, not just specific areas of it, she said. cathie.bell@mex.co.nz

- The Marlborough Express

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