People shopping on Queen St, Masterton. PHOTO/FILE

Better support on the way for events

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

New figures made public by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show Destination Wairarapa was the only Regional Tourism Organisation in the country to show an increase in tourism spend for the 12 months ending July 2020, up two per cent [an increase of $3.4 million].

This means an additional $3.4m has been injected into the Wairarapa economy from domestic and international visitors compared with the year before – despite the impact of covid-19 on the last quarter of the year, ending July 2020.

On the other side of the balance sheet, big year-on-year declines were seen in Fiordland [tourism spending down 22 per cent] and West Coast [tourism spending down 20 per cent].

To add to these chart-topping figures, for the month of July 2020, Destination Wairarapa also experienced the highest growth in visitor spend among all RTOs – with a 45 per cent increase compared with July 2019.

This was thought to be prompted by Wairarapa’s status as a prime short break destination post-lockdown.

The school holiday period further added to the total.

This news came after last week’s announcement that Destination Wairarapa and Wellington NZ had been awarded $3.5m from the government’s $50m Regional Events Fund.

Before the end of this month, MBIE intended to provide each group with an investment plan template and guidance.

The ministry said it expected investment plans to be submitted by early November, and funding agreements to be put in place by the following December.

The funding would be distributed to nine groupings of RTOs. Destination Wairarapa and Wellington NZ form the regional grouping to which this funding has been awarded.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis detailed how regions were suffering from the downturn in international visitors.

“One of the ways we are supporting all regions’ economic recovery, but particularly those who have been impacted by the downturn in international visitors, is by boosting domestic tourism through investment in the New Zealand events sector,” Davis said.

When New Zealand’s 102 days of Alert Level 1 came to an end, Barry Orme, owner of the Matador Motel in Carterton, said several bookings had been cancelled due to restrictions on events, which had a knock-on effect to the hospitality industry.

“We rely heavily on events: if you’ve got to limit your gatherings to less than 100 people then a lot of these events just won’t happen,” Orme said, speaking to the Times-Age about a month ago.

With the new funding, Destination Wairarapa said they would be able to better support regional events.

Anna Neilson, Destination Wairarapa general manager, detailed how the Regional Events funding would be spent.

“As the lead agency, the money will sit with Wellington, with a panel of representatives from the two RTOs [Wellington NZ and Destination Wairarapa] deciding how and what events to support.

“Events are a major contributor to the Wairarapa economy and will be a critical way of getting more New Zealanders to travel domestically.”

Each national grouping will have to produce an investment plan before funds being released.

MBIE, along with Regional Tourism New Zealand, said they expected investment plans to be submitted by early November, and funding agreements to be in place by December.