BOP tourism industry to hit the ground running
Tourism Bay of Plenty is reaping the rewards of five years of detailed planning and public consultation, which resulted in the official launch of its Destination Management Plan Te Hā Tāpoi/The Love of Tourism just before lockdown.
As tourism operators grapple with a post-COVID world and how to re-build, Tourism Bay of Plenty’s co-created action plan involves practical ways to lift the industry with product development, support, expertise and marketing.
“The process we have gone through to come up with our Destination Management Plan had already made us think differently about tourism in the Bay and how we approach it," says Tumuaki/CE of Tourism Bay of Plenty Kristin Dunne.
"But COVID made us all think differently and now is the time to put that different approach into play.
“While this was and still is a particularly challenging time for the tourism industry in New Zealand, our plan was geared towards overcoming difficulties like this. This means we are hitting the ground running to help our industry locally.”
Initiatives to assist local businesses to evolve and re-shape their offering to be more deeply aligned with the region’s cultural identity and environment have been in place for the last two years, enabling a quick response now for a robust post-COVID recovery.
Tourism Bay of Plenty’s Kaihautū – Māori Economy Simon Phillips works in collaboration with iwi to help current and emerging Māori tourism businesses integrate Māori business practices, principles and Tikanga (Māori protocol), particularly around Kaitiakitanga (protection and guardianship).
East Coast Paddler owner Porina McLeod worked with Simon to integrate Māori business practices into her business to create a cultural presence in Tauranga.
East Coast Paddler tells the stories of the Bay of Plenty coastal region, giving visitors a deeper sense of connection with our region and environment while experiencing our waterways up-close on stand-up paddle boards. Just two years ago, East Coast Paddler was one of the only culturally-centric visitor experiences within the Tauranga region.
“Visitors would come to Tauranga and think it wasn’t part of New Zealand because the Māori culture was missing from visitor experiences," says Porina.
Fast-forward two years and this is no longer the case. Some of the businesses aided under Simon’s work are brand new and set to open in the summer.
Porina and several other operators have been working collaboratively to create new experiences that suit locals and domestic visitors in the wake of COVID.
It is collaboration that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Tourism Bay of Plenty. Shortly Porina will release a new product specifically for locals with a strong cultural development and education element.
“None of this would have been possible without the input of Tourism Bay of Plenty. They did the groundwork and paved the way to ensure we can properly integrate a deep cultural and environmental connection into our visitors’ experiences. They saw what was missing and they did the mahi to make it happen.”
“Post-COVID is a really interesting scenario and made us get creative,” says Porina.
“We’ve moved our focus off international visitation and can focus on making things right at home. We’re creating opportunities for our own people to share what we normally do with the rest of the world.
“We’ve got creative with what we do, with cost and what locals might want in terms of experiences – we’ve put ourselves in their shoes as to what they might want.
“We are in the perfect position to continue to work on integrating our environment and culture into our visitor experiences. Post-COVID, people are more sensitive towards our environment and culture.”
Kristin says Tourism Bay of Plenty’s thinking and planning to become a Destination Management Organisation (DMO) will now really come into its own.
“COVID in fact simply amplified why we have worked so hard to bring this Destination Management Plan together. We can’t do tourism as we have in the past, COVID has thrown that into focus even more.”
Global tourism expert Anna Pollock says the region could show itself to be a leading light in the tourism sector in New Zealand.
“It’s an opportunity for the local industry to help lead by example as the national industry navigates the effects of COVID.”
Tourism Bay of Plenty is set to receive a major boost in funding after achieving DMO status last year. It is hoping to access up to $700,000 in Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding to provide a much-needed boost to the local tourism industry.
"The clincher to securing the MBIE funding is we need to maintain our current funding from the Tauranga City Council, to ensure we can support the tourism industry at a time when they need it most.” says Kristin.
This funding boost is only accessible to Regional Tourism Operators with a comprehensive Destination Management Plan.