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Nelson Strengthens Cultural Tourism With Sweden

Nelson Strengthens Cultural Tourism With Sweden

Nelson, 16 May, 2003 -- Cultural and educational ties between Nelson and Sweden are about to be boosted by a visit to Sweden by Nelson's go-ahead Educational and Cultural Tourism Network.

Nelson has long been known by those in the know as a cultural and artistic hub - a region bursting at the seams with artists, potters, jewellers, and other creative types. But creativity has traditionally not paid particularly well. Artists may no longer be required to starve in garrets, but few make a good living, and fewer still are at the core of the future economic success of their region. That was what the Nelson Educational Cultural Tourism Network set out to change.

The Network, set up seven years ago, is made up of the four groups at the crux of arts, tourism, education and cultural marketing in Nelson: the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT); Latitude Nelson (the regional tourism operation for the Nelson Tasman region); Arts Marketing (a charitable trust set up in Nelson to create opportunities for the arts to flourish); and the World of Wearable Arts (WOW), the internationally acclaimed annual show of wearable arts which now has its own museum.

The Network was determined to harness Nelson's creativity to enrich both the artists and their community. It believed not only that arts and crafts could be profitable, but that Nelson's unique culture could be used to attract education and tourism to the area....and bring in valuable overseas revenue.

Seven years on, the Network is well on track to achieve its goals - and is setting its sights on boosting its share of the international cultural tourism market. In June, Trade New Zealand will assist two of its members to travel to Sweden to strengthen links, and recruit more students to come to Nelson to study educational and cultural tourism.

Elizabeth Latham, Project Leader at NMIT's Centre for Tourism, is excited about the opportunities she sees out there.

"Sweden is just the beginning of something fabulous," she says. "Swedish interest in Nelson is growing fast. If we can make educational and cultural tourism work between Sweden and Nelson, we can do the same in other parts of Europe, North America, Latin America...the sky's the limit."

Two years ago, Latham was approached by a school in Sweden that wanted to send students overseas to study cultural tourism, and had identified Nelson as a potential place to provide courses. She came up with a programme to meet their needs, and last year 18 Swedish students came for a ten week block course. It was an overwhelming success. The students adored the experience, Latham says, and so did Nelson - especially when the Network's analysis showed that they injected a total of $200,000 into the local economy.

"That far exceeded our expectations," says Paul Davis, Chief Executive of Latitude Nelson. "It was a very high return per person, and was spread throughout the region's economy. We want to keep that revenue coming in, so our trip to Sweden will be to build and strengthen those links. We plan to fill two cultural tourism courses a year from Sweden."

Already one course of Swedish students will come in 2003, and another next year. Nelson also receives 10% of its tourists from Scandinavia, and a large number of media. The Network members have worked closely together to make sure that each visit works hard for Nelson.

"This network is a really exciting example of cooperation between the local tertiary institute, local industries and Latitude Nelson," says Gisela Purcell, Trade New Zealand's Nelson Account Manager. That cooperation has lead to Nelson being at the forefront of creative tourism in this country, Davis says, and for that reason was the place chosen for the government to launch a new body called Creative Tourism NZ on May 1.

Nelson will also apply to be one of four regions to be government-funded to further develop cultural tourism initiatives.

"In countries like Sweden cultural tourism tends to be about history and heritage," says Latham. "Here, we concentrate less on the past than on our way of life now. Overseas students love that - they respond to what is special about Nelson. There is great potential to grow educational and cultural tourism in Nelson - especially for Maori tourism operators and young people with fresh ideas."

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