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How we rise the tide

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When I meet business and community groups, the most common perception is that the role of a regional tourism organisation (RTO) is to promote its region as a must-see destination to bring in more tourism dollars.

Nicola Greenwell

While it’s true this is a vital part of what regional tourism organisations like Hamilton and Waikato Tourism do, what’s often less understood is our broader role of facilitating ‘regenerative tourism’ – ensuring tourism benefits our people and places beyond just dollars and cents – and advocating for, and building the capability of, the sector.

I’ve written and spoken a lot about regenerative tourism over the past 24 months but our role building the capability of the sector is equally important. By developing the skills, knowledge and awareness of tourism operators and event organisers and others involved in the sector, we can have an amplifying effect and rise the tide for all and to ensure our manuhiri have an amazing experience in our region.

A great example was the Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund roadshow, which brought together more than 60 event organisers from our region and across the central North Island in March.

The $3.75 million Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund, which is now in its final year of operation, was established by central government in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic to help stimulate domestic tourism.

Workshops in Hamilton, Taupō, Ohakune and Rotorua helped event organisers and those involved in event management develop strategies for measuring the performance of their events and plan for future growth.

It was attended by everyone from event organisers and venue and council event teams to community organisations and club representatives. It included organisers of some of our best-known events, as well as newcomers.

By bringing everyone together to network, share what has and hasn’t worked, and learn from expert presenters, we and other RTOs in the Thermal Explorer region are helping create sustainable events that return each year and add vibrancy – and a source of income – to our communities.

The March roadshow was the third in a series of four funded as part of the Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund.

It was fantastic to see the survey of participants at the March workshops found all survey respondents rated them as ‘extremely valuable’ or ‘valuable’ and all would be interested in attending further workshops.

That’s a glowing endorsement of the value capability building is providing, and the growing number of events coming to our region – and returning each year – provides living proof of the difference capability building efforts like this provide.

As RTOs head into a new financial year and contend with some of the tightest funding constraints we’ve faced, it’s vital we don’t lose the ability to support regenerative tourism or deliver on our capability building promise.

For destination management to succeed regions need both marketing and industry development, including capability building, to help ensure the economic, social and environmental health of our regions.

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Nicola Greenwell

Interim General Manager, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism

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