OPINION: Anyone who lives in Nelson-Tasman knows we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world! We wake up every day feeling smugly lucky to see the sun shining again across our iconic bay as we set off on our 10 minute commute to work looking forward to some of the best coffee in the country!
I'm sure your morning experience has differences to mine, but whatever way you look at it, we're pretty fortunate to live here.
So this got me thinking about our tourism industry and all the hard work that has gone into positioning Nelson-Tasman as a great visitor experience. I love the summer buzz when the region has visitors from other parts of New Zealand and from overseas, and I enjoy sharing my favourite "must-do's" with them.
I've just put in a submission to Tasman District Council pleading with it to rethink its decision to reduce the funding cut for Nelson Tasman Tourism. Imagine our region without those tourists who inject millions of dollars of visitor spend into our local economy, who add a sense of energy and buzz to our summer and who go home as great ambassadors for our region.
Let's get past this short-sighted mentality that it's only the ‘tourism operators' who benefit from a healthy tourism industry. Everyone of us benefits from the visitor spend that keeps our shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and service businesses open for you to enjoy all year round. Someone in your family probably works in a job that benefits directly or indirectly from increased economic activity generated through visitor spend.
Why should I, as Manager of Uniquely Nelson, care whether tourists continue to visit the Tasman region? Surely we can continue to promote tourism only in Nelson? The short answer is no!
The visitor does not care about two councils and two municipalities, they see a multitude of fantastic experiences across ONE region. They love Tahuna Beach, the wineries, the cycle trail, the Abel Tasman, the Lakes district, our arts, galleries and crafts, and they love spending money in all our retail areas.
Tasman District Council has a responsibility to encourage and support the economic wellbeing of its retail and business communities and a large part of that is in attracting the visitor dollar.
There is hard proof from other tourist destinations around the world that a decrease in tourism spending has resulted in a dramatic decline in visitors, we don't want this to happen to our region!
Now, while I'm at it, it's time we locals got over this "Us and Them" mentality between Richmond and Nelson. Uniquely Nelson has always held the view that we are fortunate to have three major retail centres and several smaller boutique offerings in the Nelson-Tasman region.
The retail centres complement and enhance the overall visitor experience, it is not a competitive market and the prosperity of our retailers is critical to the economic wellbeing of the entire region. Many local retailers have stores in more than one retail area in Nelson-Tasman, so there is vested interest in seeing economic stimulation across all parts of the region. The people who work for or own our retail and hospitality businesses are local residents who rely on the success of their business for their livelihood.
I know, as a local, I often visit all our retail areas and I have favourite retail stores and cafes in all of them. I am sure you do too.
We are one region when it comes to the visitor experience, and we are most certainly one region when it comes to being a great place to live. Let's take off the blinkers and as the forthcoming winter tourism marketing campaign says, let's "See Nelson-Tasman in a New Light".
- Cathy Madigan is Manager of Uniquely Nelson