Tourism Waitaki plans to tie seasons together

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Tourism Waitaki hopes to increase the growth of the booming industry in North Otago by tying the summer and winter seasons together, general manager Jason Gaskill says.

Tourism has increased dramatically in the area over the past few years, with people coming from all over the world to see the blue penguins, cycle the Alps 2 Ocean trail, visit the Victorian Precinct and more.

Mr Gaskill said Tourism Waitaki was focusing on a way to expand and tie in different parts of the district all year round.

In summer, Oamaru is the main drawcard for visitors and while Ohau is most popular in winter, but it would be beneficial for the area if they could work out a way to bring more people to Oamaru in winter and more people to Waitaki, he said.

“Our real ambition is to tie those two seasons together,” Mr Gaskill said.

This would be the main focus for the organisation over the next three to five years, he said.

“I feel like were on the verge of something amazing.

“We expect things to just continue to grow.”

The interest in North Otago had increased over the last few years but had become more noticeable in the last 18 months, with heritage and nature being strong factors, he said.

People are more aware of the region and tend to come here more as a destination than by passing through.

“It used to be a jewel that people came across,” he said.

With heritage and the Victorian precinct being a big attraction for people visiting the district, Tourism Waitaki would support the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust in whatever direction they wanted to follow, Mr Gaskill said.

“The historic precinct is a very important component of the identity of Oamaru.

“It does give a point of distinction to the Oamaru community.

“Our job is to work with them and help them and to assist where we can add value.”

While Tourism Waitaki will focus encouraging more people to the district in different seasons, they will also be working on developing the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, managing the Victorian Heritage Celebrations and finding many more ways of continuing the growth of the industry.

By RUBY HARFIELD