i-Site changes irk businesses

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012
katerina tiscenko
JOHN HOBBS/ Fairfax NZ
Katerina Tiscenko

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The Timaru i-Site visitor centre is reducing its hours from January 1, upsetting some local businesses.

It will be open from 10am to 4pm during the week and 10am to 3pm at weekends with fewer staff. Two have taken voluntary redundancy.

A review of Visitor Information Services was the catalyst for the changes which have been made after consultation with stakeholders.

Aoraki Development Business and Tourism (ADBT) tourism manager Katerina Tiscenko said the aim was to develop the most effective mix of visitor services and promotional activities for the region.

ADBT board chairman Ken McKenzie said the board, not the council, implemented its management decisions.

He said that throughout the country the i-Site model was being restructured as research showed more people were booking online. The centre often booked visitors into accommodation or on activities out of the district which was contrary to what they were trying to achieve. He said figures analysed did not warrant longer hours. "We need to focus on what the role is of i-Site. Is it a booking agency clipping the tickets, which anyone can do, or is it to promote the district?"

Budget Shuttles' owner, Mike O'Brien, is concerned the new hours will impact badly on his business. "Most elderly don't book online," he said.

Bay Viaduct Motor Lodge manager Val Wilkinson said she thought the decision to change the hours was short-sighted as the centre was an asset.

"It's crazy for a district trying to grow."

She has worked in the tourism industry for 35 years and has always used i-Site because it is efficient and staff are knowledgeable.

Many of her customers liked to talk to people face to face and ask questions about their plans, she said.

Mr McKenzie said he understood some people would be concerned but he suggested they waited to see how it went.

The Timaru District Council has set aside almost $700,000 this financial year for ADBT. The board decides how that is apportioned between economic development and promotions including i-Site.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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