Tourism Waitaki’s focus found wanting

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A longtime Victorian precinct tenant says Tourism Waitaki is not doing enough to promote one of the district’s biggest attractions – its culture.

Oamaru’s heritage and its people made the town unique, and that should be one of the council-controlled organisation’s main selling points for the district, Grainstore Gallery owner Donna Demente said.

“We have a wonderful opportunity here to promote ourselves based on the fact we have riches and abundance and opulence,” Ms Demente said.

“I think there’s nothing more attractive to people from outside a place than the fact that everybody there is proud and happy to live there and loves the values.”

Waitaki’s advertising campaigns should be different from those of all other New Zealand towns, she said.

“You have got to be funny, dry and clever.

“We don’t need to beg and grovel and scrape to get people to come here.”

She said Tourism Waitaki had developed a “ticket- clipping” mentality, which did not help the smaller tourism operators.

The closure of the Oamaru i-Site was symptomatic of that approach, she said.

In the 25 years she had lived in Oamaru, Ms Demente said Tourism Waitaki had not been run with enough transparency and had become too focused on big-spending tourists who visited only a few key locations, at the expense of lower-budget travellers who stayed for longer.

That model had been exposed now international tourism was non-existent in the medium term.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said she had confidence the organisation was doing a successful job.

“The buzz about Oamaru is strong outside the district, with growing interest from many regions about the uniqueness of what the district has to offer and the story around the evolution of [New Zealand’s] first aspiring Unesco Global Geopark being established here,” Mrs Munro said.

“I appreciate that locals will not see this advertising, as it takes place in other parts of New Zealand or, in some cases, offshore.”

Recent advertising campaigns had mainly targeted the wider Canterbury region, she said.