Controversial plans to scrap an award-winning tourism group serving one of New Zealand’s premier visitor regions have drawn the wrath of the country’s peak industry body.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa is urging district councils on the South Island’s west coast to reject a plan to wind up Tourism West Coast (TWC), the local regional tourism organisation.
The organisation’s responsibilities will pass to the local economic development agency – despite the fact that TWC last year won a New Zealand tourism award as a “fantastic example” of how to drive visitor spending.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa, which represents operators responsible for 85% of New Zealand’s tourism turnover, is adding its considerable voice to local concerns.
Spokesman Chris Roberts said: “Tourism West Coast is performing extremely well, with highly capable staff supported by a very competent and dedicated board.
“Visitor spend for the year to January 2018 on the West Coast was up 12% to $549m – the best performing region in the country.
“This is in no small part due to the valiant efforts of TWC staff.”
TWC undertook a comprehensive rebrand in 2016 and last year was recognised at the national tourism awards, receiving the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Industry Alignment Award.
The judges wrote: “The new ‘untamed natural wilderness’ brand has been enthusiastically accepted by the New Zealand tourism industry and international markets, and won applause from local mayors and councils.”
They went on to comment that it was “a fantastic example of industry alignment that had helped drive up annual visitor spending on the West Coast”.
Development West Coast wrote to the Buller, Grey and Westland District Councils earlier this month to request that they immediately take steps to dissolve TWC, citing the recommendations of the regional economic development action plan.
“Given all this success, the question that has to be asked is: what is broken?” said Mr Roberts.