Surge in visitors to Aviation Heritage Centre

The Aviation Heritage Centre at Omaka is within 1171 visitors of achieving its goal to get 30,000 visitors a year, centre chief executive Jane Orphan said yesterday.

Mrs Orphan and centre chairman Brian Greenall told the Marlborough District Council's community and financial planning committee yesterday that the centre had made a profit, thanks to a grant from this year's successful Classic Fighters Omaka Air Show.

She outlined the work the centre was doing with other organisations, linking with the Classic Car Museum, and doing much more with the Marlborough Aero Club and the associated aviation businesses at the Omaka airfield.

"The council set us the goal of 30,000 paying visitors a year within five years. In 2012, we came within 1171 of achieving this with 28,829 customers. This represents our highest annual figure since opening in 2006, and is a 14 per cent increase on the previous year.

"During the busiest summer months of January, February, and March, the breakdown of visitors indicated that 6 per cent were from Marlborough, 50 per cent from the rest of New Zealand, and 44 per cent from overseas. The largest overseas market was Australia, followed by Britain."

Councillors congratulated Mrs Orphan and Mr Greenall on improving the centre's finances and attendance, but several were concerned that Marlborough people were not taking advantage of the centre.

Mrs Orphan said the centre was working to encourage Marlburians to visit, holding "Wings and Wheels" events every two months.

She said a half-price rate was available for Marlborough people, but the centre didn't like to advertise that because it might put off other visitors. A reduced rate of $55 had been set for families, as "children can be a deal breaker when you have a big family".

The entry fee is $25 for an adult.

"For people from overseas, that's not a lot. For Marlborough people, it's a real barrier. We dropped it for them for that reason. Even for the out-of-town people, it's a lot."

The Marlborough Express