The withdrawal of support follows a decision by the council to cut its $60,000 annual investment and not renew its three-year funding agreement with Hamilton & Waikato Tourism.
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson is deeply disappointed by the decision and is concerned for local businesses that rely on tourism, especially those battling the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
“For the past 10 years, we have worked really hard to attract domestic and international visitors into South Waikato and the wider region, especially coming into the quieter winter months. Businesses like Lake District Adventures, Waikato River Trails, Over The Moon Cheese and Cougar Mountain Bike Park that rely on visitors will have their long-term pipeline of demand significantly reduced,” Dawson said.
“It’s those businesses that will lose out from this decision and I’m incredibly disappointed for them. For example, we are about to launch marketing and consumer campaigns into New Zealand and Australia, and unfortunately unique experiences like Waikato River Trails will no longer be included in our promotion.”
Official data shows the visitor sector contributed $54 million into the South Waikato District economy for the year ending April 2021. But from July this year, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism will no longer be funded to provide support including marketing, destination planning, hosting media and travel writers, research, business events and major events support for South Waikato’s visitor sector.
Business to directly benefit from that work included visitor attractions, retail, hospitality, accommodation, local transport operators and events.
“It’s a real shame because the return on investment* has been significant for South Waikato District Council over the past 10 years. For April 2021, for every $1 invested with us, tourism returned $900 of visitor spend annually into South Waikato.”
“Prior to COVID-19 border closures, the return on investment was even higher with every $1 of council funding generating a return of $1,362 in visitor spend into South Waikato District. That’s a great return and with funding cut, local businesses will feel the difference in their pockets,” Dawson said.
He confirmed South Waikato District Council was the only council of seven in the Hamilton & Waikato Tourism area to cut funding for destination marketing and support. All other councils had maintained their current levels of funding.
Three Government-funded initiatives are seeing significant investment provided to Hamilton & Waikato Tourism to assist with the post-COVID 19 recovery for the sector which South Waikato District and its operators will no longer be able to access, including:
- $700,000 awarded from the $20.2m Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP);
- Eligibility to receive up to $1 million from the recently announced $26m Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan; and
- Appointed “lead entity” for an RTO collective including Taupō, Rotorua and Ruapehu to administer a $3.75m regional events fund over a 2-4-year investment period.
“Our region, which has always been popular with domestic visitors, now has an even greater opportunity to shine and I think those councils see that. But sadly we won’t be able to include South Waikato in destination management planning, its tourism businesses and events in the mix going forward.”
Note to editors: * This figure is calculated on every $1 of council funding invested in Hamilton & Waikato Tourism, and the return to the district economy through visitor expenditure – domestic and international (source: Tourism Electronic Card Transactions).