Rotorua Daily Post: Investing in our local tourism industry

Saturday, September 19, 2015

International tourism is New Zealand’s number one export, and it’s our largest earner locally. It employs more people in the Rotorua area than any other industry and is a significant part of the local economy. Visitor numbers have been growing and it’s clear that the sector is feeling better than any time over the last few years.

Major events have a role to play in this. As well as there being strong growth in international tourist arrivals for general tourism, conferences, sporting and major events continue to contribute to the strength of tourism for Rotorua and the surrounding areas.

But tourism is an extremely competitive business. Taupo, Te Puke, Tauranga, Tirau, Hamilton, Cambridge, and even Matamata all pitch for the tourist dollar. These are but a few of the destinations who have long woken up to the importance of attracting high value visitors to spend money and support jobs in the local economy. The good news is, with international visitors numbers projected to continue to grow there’s more than enough to go around. We cannot be complacent however and need to continue to offer the best visitor experience we can.

To remain relevant as a country and competitive as a district we need to keep innovating and keep Rotorua fresh, new and vibrant. Thankfully we are ahead of the game in this area.

This week Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key announced an additional $8 million of funding to drive productivity and innovation in tourism. The Tourism Growth Partnership is a contestable co-investment fund that allows the Government to work in partnership with the tourism industry. Its available to individual businesses, local iwi and other industry associations – all you require is a good idea.

Rotorua tourism has done incredibly well from this and other Government partnership funds. Over the last 2 years alone more than $1.29 million has been invested in our local tourism industry – a significant vote of confidence in our region.

Last year $645,000 was allocated to upgrade the Skyline Gravity Park facility on Mt Ngongotaha to international standard and promote the hugely successful Crankworx mountain bike festival. This brought the best riders from all over the world, as well as thousands of international visitors with millions of online and TV viewers seeing the best of our city - a huge publicity boost for Rotorua.

We also received a $300,000 contribution from the Major Events Fund for the Tarawera Ultra-Marathon. This world-class event is now part of the World Ultra Marathon circuit. This funding is designed to help the event grow and further promote Rotorua as a high class destination.

In February this year the Prime Minister was in town to announce a $350,000 cash grant from the fund to explore options to develop a world class spa and hotel complex. Rotorua as a Spa City is a powerful brand but one that is underutilised. This funding will help unlock the significant opportunity of geothermal activity and tourism and is expected to deliver both jobs and investment for our economy. The hotel is projected to deliver up to $48 million of benefits from the build alone and will be an important draw card for visitors from around the world.

There are a growing number of exceptional businesses around Rotorua who could benefit from the Tourism Growth Partnership to drive greater productivity and innovation in the tourism sector. Tourism sustains and creates jobs. It help build an economy and offer opportunities that would otherwise not be there.  More visitors are coming, it’s up to us to make sure Rotorua continues to be a ‘Must Visit’ destination.

If you have an idea that will benefit Rotorua and help grow the local economy and if its tourism based I encourage you to learn more about the Tourism Growth Partnership.

Applications for funding are now open. More information is available at http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/tourism/tourism-growth-partnership.