Tourism operators are slamming Tourism BOP’s decision to shift the Mount Maunganui i-Site from Salisbury Avenue to the Beachside Holiday Park.
Stuart Arnold, owner of Dolphin Seafaris, says the decision is lunacy in the wake of the disruptions of the last year.
Image: Google Earth.
“Rena affected everyone, including the information centre, but that’s going to pick up next year.
“To shut down the official i-Site that’s part of the nationwide network…to not have an official i-Site for Joe Public in Mount Maunganui is lunacy.”
Tourism BOP has completely lost sight of what it is intended to do, says Stuart.
“Tourism BOP is meant to be in the business of supporting local tourism. The idea of an i-Site is people go in there and get a personal service from people who know all of the local operations…I just can’t believe Tourism BOP is doing this to be honest.
“It’s not just my business, it’s every tourism business in the Bay. We have a very high percentage of bookings which come through the Mount i-Site. Everyone does. Anyone who has a brochure in the brochure rack there, which covers not only marine tourism operations, the charter fishing boats locally, the dive businesses, the hotels, the restaurants, bus tickets, just about anything you can think of that visitors need to know.
“To lose that here in the Bay after what we have had happen in the last 12 months would be disastrous.”
Foot traffic is the decider, says Tourism BOP chief executive Rhys Arrowsmith.
Visitor numbers to i-Sites is down both nationally and internationally and smaller visitor centres are in decline, he says.
He added that better mobile phone technology is increasing the abilities of visitors to book their own activities and accommodation.
“Largely, any visitors that are coming to I-Sites and visitor centres stumble across them,” says Rhys.
“They are foot traffic walking passed them, so as the foot traffic changes and grows we have to look at the relevance to the visitor. That’s why we have relocated the visitor information centre back to where it was at the motorcamp there.
“You have a million people walking round the Mount every year. That’s where the people on foot are – they are not down by the police station there. It’s a simple move that makes absolute obvious sense.”
Finance is a factor, but relevance to the visitor is the most important thing, says Reece.
“We have to put our resources where the growth is.”
Tourism BOP will also increase the size of the on-wharf i-Site to cater for the continuing growth in cruise ship passengers.
“It is by no means a decision made over any correlation between Rena or anything like that,” says Rhys.
“This has been in decline for a number of years, so it’s finally got to the point where it’s hit a drop so strongly that we basically have to make a sensible move and cater towards what the visitors are wanting and where they are going. It’s really as simple as that.”
Stuart says the decision must be overturned and is calling for the city council to financially support the i-Site in Salisbury Avenue.
The independent information centre will have no affiliation with the national i-Site brand, will have no car parks and will be too small to cope with beachside business as well as local tourism, says Stuart.
As such, Stuart believes tourists will likely have to park their vehicles further down the beach, before walking kilometres to receive their information.
The change is scheduled to take place on June 30.
Brochure display racks in the Mount I-Site will be relocated to the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park. The Holiday Park has agreed to continue to display brochures for all tourism operators with existing brochure display contracts for the Mount Maunganui i-Site until the contracts end on September 30.