Do you think that the Rugby World Cup has provided any long-term benefits for the Nelson region?
A year after Nelson's Rugby World Cup party, some tourism operators and retailers say longer-term benefits have not appeared.
However, regional bodies and political leaders say the $7 million investment in hosting the three cup matches and upgrading Trafalgar Park is money well spent, and will continue to pay dividends for the region.
They say without the World Cup, tourism and business would have had an even more difficult time as the global economic downturn bites.
An economic impact assessment report on Nelson-Tasman's World Cup hosting found a $9m lift in the region's GDP during the tournament.
It also said long-term benefits of the region's investment would be seen over the following two years as media coverage began to gain traction.
In April 2009 a business development report calculated that hosting a single Rugby World Cup game in Nelson and its associated downstream affects would be worth close to $14 million to the region.
Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio, who was then a city councillor, said the report focused on the short-term benefits when he believed the long-term benefits would be far greater.
Tourism operator Bob Haswell says while the "feel good factor" of having international teams and supporters in the region was hard to put a value on, he did not think the region's exposure had translated to more tourists.
Mr Haswell, a long-term tourism operator who runs a luxury accommodation business in Ruby Bay, said extensive effort and cost went into marketing his business prior to last year's World Cup, with zero effect.
Forward bookings were looking better now, but it had nothing to do with cup spin-off, he said.
He challenged those who promoted big events to be more realistic about their forecasts.
"My advice to the bureaucrats is, if you're going to rev up the public to seek their support for these events - if they're going to pour ratepayer money into special events, they need to put on their thinking caps a bit better."
Statistics New Zealand figures show total guest nights in Nelson-Tasman for the year to June 2012 have fallen slightly.
International guest nights dropped 2.6 per cent to 438,252 over the year, but domestic guest nights rose 1.1 per cent to 789,349.
The former chief of the Tourism Industry Association Tim Cossar was sceptical of the benefits of one-off events such as the World Cup.
A survey of association members after RWC, and included in the economic assessment report, found fewer than half enjoyed a boost in business during the cup as domestic customers delayed travel plans. Auckland and Wellington, where the main events were held, had the highest benefits.
Mr Cossar said big events that come back regularly, such as the Adam Chamber Music Festival in Nelson, had better spin-offs as they kept producing benefits.
"You don't find too many people around world tourism saying big events led to a boom in tourism in the next five years".
Central Nelson businesses are reporting one of the worst winters on record, due in part to the downturn in visitors as a result of global economic conditions.
While some retailers reported a short-term boost from the cup, others say they did not even get that as regular clients stayed away.
Shelley Monrad of retail store Aromaflex said it had been "one of the softest winters ever" in 17 years.
Her business has not benefited from last year's visitor influx, and was possibly worse because regular clients stayed away from town.
Co-owner of Falafel Gourmet cafe, Kay Vidal, said it has been the worst winter she had known, but some businesses she knew of were less affected. "The tourists aren't around but I also think that global problems have finally really hit New Zealand this year."
The economic impact report said the impact from visiting fans was greatest for businesses close to Trafalgar Park.
Businesses elsewhere in Nelson, Richmond and Tasman reported a fall in trade.
Lisa Chambers, sales and marketing manager for Abel Tasman Skydiving, a company highlighted in the report as one of few business to see increased business, said it had a huge influx of people in September last year, and that affected business for the rest of the year.
However, the people coming to Nelson now would have committed about six to 12 months ago, meaning they were probably not influenced by the Rugby World Cup.
"At the end of the day you can only put it out there, and if it's what people want they will come and experience it."
The economic impact assessment, prepared for the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency and released in March, said spin-offs for regional investment in Nelson were "disappointing".
NZ Trade and Enterprise mounted a promotion aimed at the international business community to assist meetings between international investors and domestic producers.
In Nelson only one appointment was made.
Nelson city spent $5.9 million upgrading Trafalgar Park for the event, and a further $1.7 million on events supporting the three pool games in Nelson. Tasman district contributed $100,000 to the effort. Growth in regional GDP was $9.9m and visitor spending made up $5.1m of this.
Mr Miccio stood by his view that the event had "far exceeded" his expectations in terms of community engagement, visitor experiences and how Nelson fared as a host city.
He said anyone who thought otherwise was "misinformed".
"Trafalgar Park is one of the best facilities in the country and the investment was well worth it. It's had increased use since the upgrade and the returns will be there."
Spending on Trafalgar Park enabled the region to be a serious contender for hosting future major events, such as the under-20 Fifa (football) tournament.
Mr Miccio declined to say if a decision was close about Nelson attracting part of the tournament, or disclose other business deals which had emerged from the World Cup. "There are a number of projects on the go which I can't talk about in order to protect individuals," he said.
Mr Miccio blamed the downturn in the global economy for the sluggish activity.
He said the reputation Nelson had gained from the exposure had translated to more visitors to the region than it would have had without World Cup events.
Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said because international markets operated two years in advance, the region would not see a big wave of visitors coming into the region for about two years.
"The media profile that we got was absolutely significant, but the international market - it takes time."
The region would leverage the infrastructure development, the beautification of the city, and the destination marketing, she said.
"If anyone's going down a path thinking that the investment in the Rugby World Cup was a waste of money, they're actually taking a couple of results out of context and not looking at the bigger picture."
Nelson Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater was not anticipating there would be a lot of business deals as a result of RWC, but said the benefits to the region were good.
"I would venture to say that if we hadn't had the Rugby World Cup we could have had a very difficult time for Nelson tourism last September-October.
"I wouldn't discount a flow-on economic benefit at some point. Nelson's on the radar for having produced one of the best efforts of regional New Zealand."
Many of those who visited for the tournament might have sung the region's praises when they returned, but it took time for people to save for a trip to the other side of the world, and the economies of Europe and the United States were struggling, Mr Findlater said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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