Tourism 'still delivers' 1.516 million visitors

Marlborough's tourism industry remains a significant contributor to the region's economy, despite the global economic climate, Destination Marlborough says.

The regional tourism organisation, funded mainly by Marlborough District Council, reported on its activities in the past year and its plans for the next financial year to the council community and financial planning committee yesterday.

Chairman Joe Ferraby and general manager Tracy Johnston presented to councillors, showing that Destination Marlborough had made a $12,953 profit this year.

There had been 1.516 million visitors to Marlborough, with 2.1 million overnight stays and $229 million of new money brought into the district, Mrs Johnston said.

Mr Ferraby said tourism had been a "tough industry" in the past three years.

"To achieve this result is very good."

The personal highlight was the opening of the new Blenheim i-Site, he said.

"Council has provided a pre-eminent building in New Zealand. The chairman of the i-Site association thinks it is the best in New Zealand."

Despite the downturn in the industry, numbers using the i-Sites in Blenheim and Picton continued to grow, which was a good result.

Staff were of high quality, including Annette Tanabose, at the Picton i-Site, who was awarded one of three national awards by the i-Site association for exceptional customer service.

Mrs Johnston said a highlight for her was the visit to Marlborough by 117 of the 500 delegates from the Society of American Travel Writers, who held their annual conference in Wellington.

This was more international media in one week than Destination Marlborough usually hosted in a year.

Next year, the organisation was increasing its emphasis on the Australian and domestic markets, in line with the feedback from tourism operator stakeholders in Marlborough. There were also new opportunities in South East Asia to build markets.

Planned activity around The Hobbit movie was on hold, as the segments filmed in Marlborough were not in the first film. However, that meant there would be a good platform for promotion in following years when the second and third films in the trilogy were released.

Of the 15 performance measures set last year, Destination Marlborough had achieved 13. One of the measures not achieved was reliant on government-provided statistics and the collection methods for those are being revised and are not available.

The other measure was increasing website hits from 4000 a month to 10,000. Mrs Johnston said 6500 had been achieved and the organisation was working to increase them. However, the average time each person spent on the site was about 4.35 minutes, which was a long time, and compared well to statistics for other regions.

Councillors quizzed Mrs Johnston about cruise ships and the marketing done to attract them to Picton.

She said much of that work was done by Port Marlborough as the port operator, and the planning work was two or three years in advance of ships altering their schedules to include Picton.

Though 20 ships were coming to Picton this cruise season, it was important not to focus too much on the number. Some were much larger and could have thousands of passengers on board.

Destination Marlborough was working to make sure those passengers were aware of what they could do while they were here and that there was capacity in Marlborough to cope with that volume of visitors.

The Marlborough Express