By Maia Hart.
Whisper the words “post-pandemic”. Because even though we’re not there yet, some of us are planning for that special day.
And with Aotearoa’s borders slowly opening, we may be closer than we think.
It’s no secret that for the tourism industry the Covid-19 pandemic has been almost catastrophic, but has it also provided an opportunity? An opportunity to “reset”.
That’s the question Destination Marlborough – and other tourism organizations – are asking themselves, as they develop their Destination Management Plan, or DMP.
Destination Marlborough chief executive Jacqui Lloyd said each region had been asked to create a DMP to understand the future of tourism in their region.
“We’re not saying that as Destination Marlborough we’re going to build a hotel or launch a new product,” Lloyd said.
“It’s like being a conductor in an orchestra. All of these amazing things happen in isolation, so how can we be the one to bring them together and become a destination for the community.”
The plan targeted all corners of Marlborough, from the south to Blenheim, Havelock and the Marlborough Sounds, Lloyd said.
“We now have the opportunity for return visitation to help manage how people move through our communities and be a benefit to the community rather than a hindrance.”
As part of the DMP, Lloyd said they would like to hear directly from the community about what they want for Marlborough tourism.
“It’s a request for all ages,” Lloyd said. “What does everyone want for Marlborough in the future, we know there are gaps in our offerings so how can we help facilitate those things to be better at the to come up?”
Destination Marlborough’s Destination Management Project Manager Anton Wilke said New Zealand had seen huge growth in tourism before Covid-19, so now there was an opportunity to understand what it was like after the pandemic .
“From Destination Marlborough’s perspective, what is the best plan for the future?” said Wilke.
“We also work very closely with the DOC (the Department of Conservation) and we try to establish links with the local iwi.
“Essentially where we’ve come to is that the environment is at the heart of this plan, and that not just tours and tourism, but all the other pillars of the industry like wine and forestry, and marine agriculture are all based on the success of the environment.”
The final DMP was something they were adamant would not sit on a shelf, but would be reviewed on a regular basis.
“We have identified a number of strategies and activations that we want to make sure we deliver; what does the cruise market look like when it returns, what does wine tourism look like, how do we handle cycling and wider visits , what’s going on? with companies like Whale Trail, how can we work more closely with iwi to develop their signage and a more accurate representation around their history?”
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the DMP was a “real opportunity” to step back and press the “reset button”.
“We [council] were really supportive of the initial approach [to the DMP] and the idea of going out with a poll,” Leggett said.
“It focuses people on the question of what Marlborough can be like. What do you think we can do to improve the visitor experience?”
Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau managing director, Corey Hebberd, said tourism offers visitors, both Kiwis and foreigners, the opportunity to experience “our manaakitanga (hospitality), our beautiful country and our unique tourism offering.” .
“The focus should be on value rather than volume, with a focus on high-value visitors that endure through both our off-peak and shoulder seasons,” Hebberd said.
There was an opportunity to strengthen and develop relationships with Māori, to integrate tikanga Māori into our tourism strategy and to improve tourism outcomes for our visitors and our economy, he said.
Part of that, Hebberd said, was upgrading the Wairau bar; the cradle of the nation.
“It was the tūrangawaewae for the early inhabitants of Aotearoa, as part of an organized migration. There is a rich story to tell and a lot to learn,” Hebberd said.
Guardians of the Sounds chairman Tim Healey “welcomed” the idea of a conversation with Destination Marlborough.
“Let’s talk about it [tourism]and bring all the issues out into the open,” he said.
He thought it would be helpful to have “proper” assessments of the impacts of tourism on Picton.
“Risk assessments that have never been done, and then we can move forward,” Healey said.
“Picton is a beautiful place, and people would also like to maintain their lifestyle. I think around 40% of people make their money from tourism, or used to, but that leaves 60% who don’t. not.
“So that 60% really have a say in the future.”
Slip Inn Store owner Cieran Thomas thought most people think of wine and sounds when they think of Marlborough.
“And why would they think anything else?… It brought tourism here, but it’s very focused on that…
“If people come to the airshow, you have to get them to appreciate Marlborough for what it has and encourage them to visit the restaurants and other businesses,” Thomas said.
Although he had a business in Havelock, Thomas thought it would be difficult to attract people to Havelock for long periods of time, as there was not the infrastructure to support it properly.
“It’s all well and good to say Havelock is amazing come and visit but if we don’t have the capacity to accommodate people once they get here.”
Havelock Gallery volunteer Trish Hope, who lived in Blenheim, said being known as the wine region was a good thing – but not everyone liked wine.
“Some people bypass Blenheim to go straight to Christchurch, or to [the] ferry, so I think we need to find a way to show the area. We need to encourage people to stay longer, so they can see more of the area.
“I’ve lived here all my life and love everything. Here you have everything, people should know that.”
Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air