Fears for cut in tourism budget

The organisation that encourages regional development in Nelson and Tasman is concerned that business activity could become muted by any cut in support for tourism promotion.

This Thursday the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce will host former Wellington mayor and current chair of Tourism New Zealand Kerry Prendergast as the keynote speaker at its regular monthly luncheon.

The chamber is a non-government organisation that encourages regional development and represents businesses in the Nelson region. Chief executive Dot Kettle said it was concerned about recent uncertainty regarding the future of tourism promotion, after intimations by the Tasman District Council that it planned to pull out of co-funding Nelson Tasman Tourism (NTT) after 2015.

The regional tourism promotion organisation is funded by its joint shareholders, the Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council, plus tourism operators who provide an extra $400,000 annually via specific marketing and advertising opportunities.

NTT said recently that slashing its funding would be the organisation's death knell and have an impact on the region's 3000 tourism-related jobs and estimated $500,000 daily visitor spend.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said his council was keen to explore other ways it might help fund NTT. The issue for Tasman was not the value of NTT but who should pay.

NTT chief executive Lynda Keene said she was buoyed by a recent decision by Tasman councillors to reverse a decision not to co-fund the organisation beyond 2015.

"Funding will now be provided through its long-term plan, but we're yet to find out how much each council will provide," Keene said, adding that both councils were keen to explore a possible new model for how tourism marketing and promotion might be managed.

Kettle said the chamber had invited Prendergast to speak at Thursday's luncheon because of her considerable experience at local government level and in her current role as the chair of Tourism New Zealand.

"While we do not expect her to indicate to other councils and districts what they should do, we are looking forward to her sharing her personal experience around the importance of destination marketing and regional promotion and the critical role local government can play," Kettle said.

She added that Prendergast's talk would be interesting to anyone involved in local government, economic development, tourism and business leadership.

"The chamber's view is that local government has a vital role to play in facilitating and promoting the economic development of our region. We also hold the view that everyone benefits from visitor spending and that the functions of a regional tourism office, including destination marketing, are an economic development activity that local government should contribute to," she said.

She said if the region was not effectively marketed as a destination, then visitor spending would fall. Destination marketing promoted economic development and the business vitality of the region as a whole.

Kettle said the invitation to hear Prendergast was open to all business people with an interest in the region's economic development, as well as those interested in the future of tourism, and the role of Tourism New Zealand and the part local government could play in regional growth and vitality.

Registrations are essential for the Intepeople Chamber Luncheon at The Tides Restaurant, Trailways Hotel. Register on line at commerce.org.nz

The Nelson Mail