Natural Scenery

Mackenzie tourism operators try to stay positive as hopes of holiday influx from Auckland dashed

Mackenzie’s tourism operators are keeping a brave face as any hopes of a last minute school holiday rush from visitors from Auckland vanishes.

Those hopes were dashed on Monday, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans for Auckland to go through a staggered release from lockdown with travel borders remaining in place for now,, while the rest of the country outside of Auckland and the Waikato stays in level 2.

Mackenzie Tourism Industry Association (MTIA) chairperson Kaye Paardekooper said the sooner Auckland can move through levels the better.

“Obviously, Auckland is a key market – there’s a million and a half people in Auckland – and we would just love to progress quite quickly through these level changes to full vaccination.”

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The MTIA will hold its AGM in Takapō/Tekapo on Wednesday, alongside a networking event, updates on their immigration and transport initiatives, and discussions on planning in uncertain times.

“I think we can say we’ve built an industry that’s more collaborative and closely connected, both within the industry and with organisations like [regional tourism organisation] MackenzieNZ and the Chamber of Commerce … and the Mackenzie District Council,” said Paardekooper.

“That’s been our aspiration, to have a joined up industry where we’re supporting each other through a lot of challenges, mental health issues, financial challenges.

Paardekooper said despite a great deal of uncertainty, it seemed possible international visitors could return this time next year, with Australian travellers possibly sooner.

“We‘re looking towards the end of next year for any kind of return to something remotely close to normal, and potentially first quarter of next year for the return of Australia[n visitors].”

Tourism minister Stuart Nash and Fairlie Bakehouse owner, Franz Lieber, during Nash’s visit to the Mackenzie in June. The region has been prioritised for Covid-related funding support due to its previous reliance on international tourism.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

Tourism minister Stuart Nash and Fairlie Bakehouse owner, Franz Lieber, during Nash’s visit to the Mackenzie in June. The region has been prioritised for Covid-related funding support due to its previous reliance on international tourism.

“It’s a long process, but what we’re encouraging the industry to do is plan for uncertainty.

“We’re doing a good job of staying in the game and being resilient at the moment, and with that long term focus, the industry association is bringing vibrancy back to the Mackenzie.”

Paardekooper said she is pleased with the vaccine roll-out in the Mackenzie, which she said has “a bit of a buzz around it”.

“Almost all of our staff are vaccinated, and we’ll certainly break out a bottle of bubbles when that happens.”

“If you take a community focus, rather than a personal focus, it’s all about what obligations you have to that community to keep each other safe and to be able to flourish and grow, and I think that’s very relevant in these Covid times,” she said.

Applications opened this week for the Mackenzie Regional Events Fund – central government funding to support events in areas hit hard by the lack of international tourism, with close to $1 million allocated to the Mackenzie.

Seven-year-old George Johnston, of Kurow, enjoying the snow at Ōhau at the weekend.

Stuff

Seven-year-old George Johnston, of Kurow, enjoying the snow at Ōhau at the weekend.

“I think the fund is going to be quite exciting, because the Mackenzie has events like Matariki, which goes very well with our Dark Sky status, and the Salmon and Wine Festival, which is already an established event that, with some additional funding, would grow,” Paardekooper said.

“We’re very appreciative of the funding we have had to date, because for a lot of us, it’s the difference between survival and closing the doors.

The Canterbury and West Coast International Marketing Alliance (Christchurch, Timaru, Mackenzie, Hurunui, West Coast and Kaikōura) has been allocated $7 million based on pre-pandemic international visitor spend, of which the Mackenzie’s share will be $944,480 over four years.

“Our operators are in a space where we need to build a more resilient economy going forward, and that means a bit more of a reliance on domestic tourism. Events help build a domestic tourism base, and will be part of the future of Mackenzie’s tourism economy,” Mackenzie Tourism development manager Lydia Stoddart said.

The Mackenzie’s scenery and recreation possibilities have long drawn crowds from around the world, it’s hoped more events will secure returning domestic visitors.

George Empson/Stuff

The Mackenzie’s scenery and recreation possibilities have long drawn crowds from around the world, it’s hoped more events will secure returning domestic visitors.

The ChristchurchNZ regional tourism organisation will assess Mackenzie applications before referring them to the Mackenzie Regional Events Fund Investment Panel (MREFIP), which has sole discretion for allocating funding.

Stoddart said prospective panel members are still being approached, but they hope to have a good cross-section of the Mackenzie community, as well as representatives from council and the Mackenzie Tourism Association, and at least one member with specialist events knowledge from outside the region.

Applicants have to show “demonstrable economic and social benefits”, attracting visitors from afar while ensuring high levels of community engagement, according to funding criteria released by MackenzieNZ.

There will be a focus on driving off-peak visitors, enhancing the Mackenzie’s profile and ensuring both event and environmental sustainability. Criteria also considers elements such as how much the event will “bring people together”, “express the spirit of the Mackenzie region” and “generate community buy-in”.

Asked how applicants will demonstrate the “spirit of the Mackenzie”, Stoddart said it involves capturing the unique people, environment and possibilities of the area.

Mackenzie Tourism Industry Association (MTIA) chairperson Kaye Paardekooper said government funding has been the difference between make or break for many Mackenzie tourism businesses.

Bejon Haswell/Stuff

Mackenzie Tourism Industry Association (MTIA) chairperson Kaye Paardekooper said government funding has been the difference between make or break for many Mackenzie tourism businesses.

“The Mackenzie has some key selling points from a tourism perspective. We’re not a city, we’re not a Queenstown. We’ve got pure nature, we’ve got the night sky, the glaciers, the salmon. The panel will be asked if the event will add to the regional profile and regional brand, does it speak to the values of the Mackenzie district?”

Events are unlikely to receive investment if they are not supported by experienced event management teams, fall within already busy periods or don’t attempt to mitigate, reduce or offset their carbon footprint.

Mackenzie event development executive Anna Hiatt said its important applicants have good event management structure behind them to ensure events are professionally organised and long-lasting rather than one-offs.

Hiatt said reducing environmental impact is critical, as events have traditionally created large carbon footprints.

The first application round will close on November 1, with decisions expected within four to six weeks.

Stoddart said it’s difficult to know how many applications they will receive.

“There’s an appetite there, it’s just whether there’s an appetite to do it soon, especially in this Covid environment.”


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