Online move not for all

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
timaru i-site
INFO HERE: Timaru's i-Site.

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The first 12 months of reduced visitor-centre hours in Timaru and Geraldine have had mixed reviews from local businesses as they field more inquiries.

Since January 1, the i-Site visitor centres were restructured as part of nationwide changes. They are only open six hours a day during the week and five hours at weekends with fewer staff, forcing visitors outside these hours to go online to make bookings or find information.

Budget Buses and Shuttles owner Mike O'Brien said because the visitor centres could not be contacted outside their new hours, tourists were contacting businesses to make inquiries.

"They are using us for information, they want to know how much things cost and about bookings. They are tying up our phone constantly," he said.

Mr O'Brien disagrees with online bookings only. Apart from older people not always being keen to go online, he said it takes about six or seven emails to book a ticket to ensure times of flights are married to bus times.

"It's [email] labour-intensive. A phone call only takes a few minutes."

Motel Association South Canterbury president Maree Winter did not think the changes had impacted badly on moteliers, as members had not complained.

As owner of Bay Viaduct Motor Lodge, she had not noticed any difference in bed nights, though she had heard the restructure had caused some inconvenience for some elderly visitors.

"We have fielded a few extra inquiries, such as where the after-hours pharmacy is," Mrs Winter said. But she was not concerned.

It was "the sign of the times" that more information and bookings were now available online, Mrs Winter said.

"At the end of the day, it's not far to go to look for accommodation in Timaru."

Aoraki Development Business & Tourism tourist manager Katerina Tiscenko sees the restructure as positive.

"Our visitor-centre services have been broadened over the past 12 months to meet the challenges of advancing technology, and the changing information needs of travel consumers.

"This has included aspects such as more visitor information, more links to online booking capability, free wi-fi installed through the Timaru CBD and, of course, continuing to provide a seven-day, face-to-face visitor-centre service in Timaru and Geraldine."

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- The Timaru Herald

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