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Closure of five Auckland i-SITEs confirmed

Media release
12 November 2012
Closure of five Auckland i-SITEs confirmed

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) today announced the confirmation of a new organisational structure for its regional i-SITE visitor information network that will result in the closure of the five i-SITEs located at Orewa, Takapuna, Kumeu, Pukekohe and Bombay, and the disestablishment of 20 full and part time positions.

“Visitors are voting with their feet and their fingers and we simply must adapt and respond to the reality of the changing information needs of visitors,” ATEED Chief Executive Brett O’Riley said today.

“The tourism market is changing rapidly, both in terms of the mix of visitors and in the ways they access information before they leave home and when they are here in the region.”

“The latest Tourism New Zealand visitor experience survey shows significantly higher smart phone, tablet and laptop use by visitors to access information and make bookings, with laptop and iPad use up 19 per cent and smart phone use up by a staggering 65 per cent in the last year alone. The survey also shows that i-SITE use is down 27 per cent over the last two years.”

“Visitor use of i-SITEs has been further impacted by fewer numbers of independent travellers and visitors from long-haul markets, who have tended to use i-SITEs, and more from China and Australia, who tend not to.”

“In essence, these five i-SITEs are no longer fit for purpose and are expected to lose around $2.7 million over the next four years, so we intend developing a new commercial model for these areas possibly involving local Auckland Council assets such as service centres and libraries and greater use of technology, along with possible partnering with the private sector.”

“We appreciate the feedback we received on the review and on the proposed organisational structure which provided a range of views and ideas from those advocating more rationalisation to those suggesting more promotion of local i-SITEs and expanding their retail offering.”

Brett O’Riley said the five i-SITEs will close on Friday 14 December 2012 and that ATEED will be working with the respective Local Boards, local tourism operators and the business community to develop localised solutions within the new commercial model.

“Our other seven i-SITEs located at the International and Domestic terminals, Sky City, Princes Wharf, Waiheke Island, Warkworth and Devonport will remain and we will also be looking at how to improve their performance within the new commercial model,” Brett O’Riley said.

“The new commercial model will give us a more customer-centric and flexible approach to visitor information supporting the Destination Auckland initiative, so that areas currently missing out can be better served.”

“If we are to significantly increase visitor numbers and visitor nights and move Auckland from a gateway to a genuine destination, we need to move with the market.”

Brett O’Riley acknowledged the closures are unsettling and will have a profound impact on the ATEED staff members affected.

“The 20 affected i-SITE managers and staff will be given redeployment priority with respect to recruitment for suitable roles that are currently vacant within ATEED and we will be working with Auckland Council and the other Council Controlled Organisations, along with local Business Improvement Districts and the private sector, to identify other possible opportunities for affected i-SITE personnel.” Brett O’Riley said.

ENDS

Questions and answers:

What is an i-SITE?
i-SITE is the brand name for the Visitor Information Network (VIN Inc.), a membership based organisation for information centres, wholly owned by Tourism New Zealand. VIN maintains specific membership standards to ensure delivery of a consistent service standard to visitors across the network. There are approximately 90 i-SITE accredited centres across New Zealand.

Where are the 12 i-SITEs located?
ATEED operates i-SITEs inherited from the legacy councils at the International and Domestic airport terminals, Sky City, Princes Wharf, Waiheke Island, Devonport, Warkworth, Bombay, Kumeu, Takapuna, Pukekohe and Orewa. An additional seasonal i-SITE is operated on Great Barrier Island during the summer months, and a mobile i-SITE is available to support major events.

Which of the 12 i-SITEs are due to close and when will they close?
The i-SITEs located at Orewa, Takapuna, Kumeu, Pukekohe and Bombay are due to close, on Friday 14 December 2012.

Why do visitors use i-SITEs?
The majority of i-SITE users enter with the purpose of collecting information, mainly brochures and maps, and also to purchase souvenirs and other tourism merchandise or make tourism bookings. User surveys show that satisfaction with the i-SITE experience is relatively high, primarily due to positive staff interaction.

How many people use the i-SITEs?
ATEED i-SITE usage ranges from 350,000 users at the Auckland International Airport to 8,000 users at Kumeu. The trend for i-SITE use is decreasing, reflecting the greater number of visitors using technology to access information. Approximate numbers of users per year for each i-SITE due to close is set out below:
• Takapuna: 25,000 (many users are locals buying bus passes)
• Kumeu: 8,000
• Orewa: 18,000
• Bombay: 30,000 (many users are locals using NZ Post outlet)
• Pukekohe: 24,000 (many users are locals buying train tickets)

How else do visitors get information?
ATEED provides visitor information through the AucklandNZ.com website, the visitor information 0800 call centre, information kiosks, at visitor attractions and destinations, and can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/aucklandNZ on Twitter @Auckland_NZ. Visitors also use the myriad of websites provided by tourism operators and numerous tourism booking websites. There is also increasing use of the many free or low cost smart phone and tablet tourism guide ‘apps’ available.

Are visitors using technology more to access information?
A majority of international visitors bring a smart phone, tablet or laptop. Of those who used technology in New Zealand, two thirds used it to collect visitor information. The pattern is similar for domestic tourists.

How is the tourism market changing?
Visitors from long-haul markets such as the UK, US and Europe are declining due to the GFC and high NZ dollar. Forecast growth will come from China and South East Asia with continued growth from Australia, borne out by latest international visitor arrivals figures from Statistics New Zealand showing a 38 per cent rise in visitors from China and a 14 per cent drop in visitors from the United Kingdom over the past year. Visitors from Australia and Asia have lower levels of awareness and use of i-SITEs.

Are changing visitor demographics affecting information access?
Young visitors, adventure tourists and those visiting friends and family tend to be high technology users. Older visitors tend to make more use of package or coach tours where the itinerary is pre-determined. These trends contribute to declining i-SITE use.

How much do the five i-SITEs due to close lose each year?
i-SITEs generate income for ATEED through commission on tourism bookings made through i-SITEs and margins on tourism product sold at i-SITES. The financial performance of the five i-SITEs proposed for closure have the following forecast deficits for 2012/13:
• Takapuna: $194,131
• Kumeu: $143,467
• Orewa: $149,763
• Bombay: $136,989
• Pukekohe: $ 61,944

How much do local tourism operators benefit from bookings made through the i-SITEs due to close?
The five i-SITEs due to close generate combined gross local tourism sales in their areas of around $95,000 a year out of a total tourism spend in the Auckland region of around $3.3 billion a year. Forecast gross tourism product sales in the local area for the 2012/13 year – for example local accommodation, activities, attractions, events, tours – by each i-SITE are shown below:
• Takapuna: $25,732
• Kumeu: $ 5,181
• Orewa: $40,219
• Bombay: $ 5,515
• Pukekohe: $17,841

How will local areas be served for visitor information once the i-SITEs close?
ATEED will work with local tourism operators and Local Boards in the areas where i-SITEs will close to identify more effective ways to service visitor information need.
These alternative delivery opportunities could include the use of nearby Auckland Council Service Centres and Libraries, more extensive use of kiosk-type access to the ATEED 0800 call centre and AucklandNZ website, wider location of brochure display stands at appropriate venues, static outdoor visitor information maps and information boards, more use of the mobile i-SITE to support major events and at prominent locations. Alternatives could also involve ATEED partnering with the private sector where appropriate and cost effective to do so.

How many ATEED i-SITE employees will be affected by the closures?
A total of 20 full-time and part-time employees will be affected by the disestablishment of full time equivalent (FTE) positions due to the closures. ATEED will give affected employees priority for recruitment for suitable roles in ATEED and will work with Auckland Council and other Council Controlled Organisations to identify further possible recruitment opportunities. Current FTE staffing at the 5 i-SITEs due to close are:
• Takapuna 5 FTE (shared roster with Devonport)
• Kumeu 2.5 FTE
• Orewa 3 FTE
• Bombay 6 FTE (shared roster Bombay and Pukekohe)
• Pukekohe see above
A full time equivalent Team Leader position will be created at Devonport i-SITE in addition to the current 3 FTE consultant positions.

How will people be able to buy bus and train tickets should the i-SITE close?
A significant number of i-SITE users at some locations, for example Takapuna and Pukekohe, visit in order to top-up bus passes or to buy train tickets. ATEED will work with Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and local retailers to provide convenient alternatives.

Has ATEED consulted over the review and the proposal?
ATEED has consulted with i-SITE managers and staff, Local Boards with an i-SITE in their area, local tourism operators and business associations, and has engaged with other Local Boards, Auckland Councillors with an i-SITE in their ward, other Auckland Councillors, and Auckland Council over the review, and the proposed new organisational structure. Feedback was sought and consultation undertaken on the review from 24 September to 12 October (extended by one week on request), and on the proposal from 23 October to 7 November (extended two days on request). ATEED also arranged for information sessions for affected Local Boards on 3 and 4 October 2012. ATEED appreciates the feedback and comment.

What do visitors look for when they visit?
Surveys show that international visitors are looking to experience our Harbour and Gulf islands, our beaches and natural beauty, our Maori and Pacific cultures and our first class food and wines, whereas domestic visitors tend to be looking for events, attractions, shopping, entertainment and nightlife.

What is the goal for economic growth from tourism?
ATEED aims to grow the Auckland visitor economy from $3.3 billion last year to $6.0 billion by 2021.


ENDS

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