James McKenzie, Mt Hutt ski area manager and a director of Ōpuke Thermal Pools, says there is a lot of value in the Ashburton District Council centralised role of promoting the district.

The district’s largest tourism operator believes the council taking over district promotion will help “make some noise” as the industry returns to pre-Covid levels.
James McKenzie, Mt Hutt ski area manager and a director of Ōpuke Thermal Pools, says there is a lot of value in the Ashburton District Council’s centralised role of promoting the district.
“The initiative the council has taken is fantastic,” Mckenzie said.
“Operators in the district will continue doing as much marketing as they can but a district strategy provides a single point of contact and focus.”
Every other district is promoting itself to the domestic and international markets and “Mid Canterbury shouldn’t be any different”.
ChristchurchNZ walked away from the role on February 7, halfway through its three-year contract with the decision based on a new strategic decision to focus on the city.
The council decided the best solution to the void was to bring district promotion in-house.
Chief executive Hamish Riach said that as visitor promotion and economic development were “two fingers on the same glove” it made sense for the council’s economic development team to take on the role.
McKenzie said Tourism NZ does a great job selling the country to the world to bring visitors in and once they are here it’s up to each district to fight for their share of visitors.
“We still have to work to get them to come here and there are districts that will be spending a lot more money than we are to attract visitors to their districts.
“We have to be in the game if we want to play it, so we have to be making enough noise that they hear us.
“The council can facilitate the impact of what [operators] are doing and coordinate it in a way that will be more effective than each operator working standalone.”
Just because the council is marketing the district doesn’t mean the tourism operators will ease back on doing their own graft.
Mackenzie said each operator’s promotion is unique to what they offer and the council can build off that existing work to promote the district as a whole.
“Operators will spend a good percentage of revenue on marketing but individually we will lose the limelight against the bigger district-wide campaigns.”
Councillor Russell Ellis described Methven as the jewel in the district’s tourism crown, but there are plenty of gems scattered throughout the district that can benefit from a collective promotional approach.
McKenzie said the benefits of a strong tourism industry flow downstream to other businesses and the local economy as a whole.
District promotion is also about attracting people to live and work here McKenzie said, as businesses need staff to support the tourism and other sectors as they grow.

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