The value of i-SITEs to our communities

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There has been a lot of chatter recently around our i-SITE visitor information centres, especially those in Hamilton, Waipa and Waikato districts. I thought it would be timely to discuss what our i-SITE visitor network does and the value they contribute to our communities.

i-SITE is New Zealand’s official visitor information network with over 80 i-SITEs nationwide. The i-SITE New Zealand brand is owned and managed by Tourism New Zealand, and heavily marketed internationally in our key markets as the ‘front door’ to tourism when visiting our country.

We have a total of 13 i-SITEs in the Hamilton and Waikato region – from Huntly to Tokoroa, Te Kuiti to Te Aroha and all places in between. Waikato i-SITEs have different operating models – some are council-operated or funded, stand-alone entities or owned by local trusts.

Every person who works at i-SITE is a travel expert for their own home town, who has undergone extensive training and travel qualifications. They help our domestic and international visitors find the sort of activities, attractions, accommodation and transport that only a local would know.

Your i-SITE knows all the best things to do, places to stay and ways to get there. Plus, they take care of the bookings and are ambassadors for our towns and city. They help to ensure international and domestic visitors are doing and spending more while they travel around New Zealand.

i-SITE visitor information centres not only provide an essential link in the international and domestic visitor journey, they are also an important part of the distribution channel for tourism businesses.

In the ever-changing digital world, you would assume that i-SITE is an outdated business model, with domestic and international visitors booking online. However recent research and increasing visitor traffic into our i-SITEs, show this is definitely not the case.

From the last International Visitor Survey, 44 percent of all “Holiday” visitors to New Zealand (1.6 million in total) use an i-SITE and numbers are increasing.

Almost 11 million travel brochures were delivered last year through our i-SITEs and airports which shows tourists still love getting information on paper. Forty percent of visitors still used brochures as their main source of information for bookings, and i-SITEs are a key part of that distribution network.

Visitors still prefer face-to-face, word of mouth recommendations from an i-SITE travel expert, which is similar to what we as New Zealanders want when we travel domestically or internationally. You want an authentic, trusted and genuine recommendation based on your needs and wants – not just what an online reviewer or advertisement states.

Many of our visitors will wait until they arrive in New Zealand to book parts of their holiday, including local transport, accommodation and activities. The i-SITE network provides a brand that is trusted by our visitors to provide good quality, useful and relevant information that is vital to ensuring these visitors have a safe, stress-free and rewarding New Zealand holiday.

You also have the power of the network – there are 80 i-SITE visitor information centres dotted throughout the country. They all work together, regularly promoting and booking activities for their own region, as well as the next stop on the visitor journey.

So next time you’re looking for a locally-made gift, want to purchase tickets to an event or book activities for visiting friends or family, remember to pop into your local i-SITE. They are open seven days a week (except Christmas Day) and are here to help.

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About Author

Jason Dawson

Chief Executive, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism