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13 Dec 18: Mighty Waikato hits tourism sweet spot

Heavy-hitters from New Zealand’s tourism industry have thrown support behind the Mighty Waikato branding strategy formally released today.

The Mighty Waikato

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism is responsible for marketing the region to domestic and international visitors who now pour $1.57 billion annually into Hamilton city and the wider region.

Up until now, unlike Northland, Queenstown, Bay of Plenty and Auckland, the Waikato has lacked a single, strong consumer brand identity to help attract visitors. This was identified as a key weakness in the regional tourism plan adopted in 2016, and developing a consumer brand was prioritised as one of five “game-changing” projects for the visitor economy.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism (HWT) chief executive Jason Dawson said the Mighty Waikato brand was developed in partnership with local tourism operators who helped fund the work privately alongside HWT, Te Waka and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. All up, including research, stakeholder consultation and development, the two-year project cost $60,000.

Initial work was done by Principals, which also developed the Waikato Story, with implementation and roll-out the responsibility of Hamilton agency, King St.

Dawson said Mighty Waikato was “soft-launched” to operators six weeks ago and was already in use, including at Hamilton Airport. It reflects a strong, passionate region with a powerful history and natural beauty, he said.

“Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Our city and region needed something unique to differentiate our offering from other parts of New Zealand. We’ve got a strong story to tell and the industry wants to tell it – this gives us the platform to do that and do it well,” Dawson said.

Dawson was backed by Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall and Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne.

“Developing a strong consumer brand is really important and needs to be done well to resonate with both domestic and international visitors,” England-Hall said.

“Regional differentiation is key to our national visitor strategy and ensures visitors understand the unique aspects of a destination. The Waikato region has a huge amount to offer and the new regional visitor brand will really help to showcase this.”

Dunne agreed a defined visitor brand was important.

“Each region has something different to offer and a clear unified story helps to showcase a region’s unique proposition to potential visitors,” she said.

Waikato’s economic development agency (Te Waka) supports economic plans that focus on building regional and local identity and Chair Dallas Fisher said Te Waka supported the brand.

Hamilton mayor Andrew King said Hamilton remained the “capital of the region so this will be great for our city.” Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams also gave it the thumbs-up.

"As a major hub for accommodation, retail, hospitality and events, Hamilton, and our CBD, is always going to be a winner from any enhanced visitor promotions and increased visitor numbers so we're very happy,” she said.

Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna said he and local tourism operators also like it. Waitomo Adventures chief executive Nick Andreef was a big fan.

"Tourism is essential for New Zealand Inc and we needed a strong clear brand like this to paint a picture of what our wider region offers visitors. I really like it and what it represents, and I think most tourism operators will feel the same,” he said.

Discover Waitomo general manager Travis Donoghue agreed.

"I love it. People often refer to Waitomo as 'magic' and seeing this aspect of the region reflected in the Mighty Waikato story is fantastic. It will be a great asset to help us promote our experiences and the wider region."

SkyCity Hamilton general manager Michelle Baillie said it was great for operators to see a major project in the region’s tourism strategy come to life.

“Other regions have strong visitor brands and it's time our region had the same.”

Tainui Waka Tourism chair and Aotearoa Experience director Lee-Ann Muntz said the Mighty Waikato brand reflected iwi aspirations around the importance of Waikato Te Awa (Waikato River).

“Mighty Waikato aligns well with our current initiatives and future tourism offering as it very strongly calls on a sense of place. It will help uniquely position the Waikato region in terms of visitor attraction."

The Mighty Waikato

For further information:
Jason Dawson, Chief Executive, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism
Phone: 027 203 3799

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism is the regional tourism organisation charged with increasing international and domestic leisure and business travellers, expenditure and stay. The organisation is funded through a public/private partnership and covers the heartland Waikato areas of Hamilton City, Matamata-Piako, Otorohanga, Waikato, Waipa and Waitomo Districts.

Further support for the Mighty Waikato Visitor Brand
“The Mighty Waikato is a strong proposition for the region. Clearly defined regional consumer stories and brands absolutely support the tourism industry’s regional growth and dispersal goals in terms of raising awareness and providing reasons to stay longer and spend more in a destination. Good stuff.”
Chris Roberts, Chief Executive, Tourism Industry Aotearoa

“The Mighty Waikato concept has been around for a while and for good reason - it works. I think it represents the region really well and sets us apart from other destinations.”
Russell Alexander, Chief Executive, Hobbiton Movie Set

“We’ve been using the term the Mighty Waikato as an airport and local tourism industry for a long time so it’s no surprise to us. It’s good to see it formalised and out in the market and I think it will have real benefits for Hamilton and the region.”
Mark Morgan, Chief Executive, Hamilton Airport

“Raglan is a magic place and is part of a real and genuine region, that will benefit from the holistic approach of Mighty Waikato. Having a cohesive regional visitor story that we can all use is a great move.”
Charlie Young, Director, Raglan Surfing School

“We are fully supportive of all strategies and plans that bring more people to our region and encouraging them to stay for a period of time. I think the Mighty Waikato works well; in fact it’s something that we as Waikato residents already say and believe in, so it’s great to see that now being showcased to the world.”
Dick Breukink, General Manager, Novotel Tainui Hamilton

“It’s great. The Mighty Waikato truly reflects the essence of this special region and gives us all the opportunity to celebrate our history, our present and our future. It will help us all market our businesses and the wider region to visitors in a more united way.”
Glyn Wooller, General Manager, Waikato River Trails