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Travelcafe Vs Rotorua i-site

Friday 16th December 2005.

What the Rotorua i-site doesn't want tourists to know....

TravelCafe is an independent travel agency and tourism business, newly established in Rotorua, with branches in both Napier and Hastings. TravelCafe recently launched free internet access for travellers and tourists at all their locations.

But as Greg Southcombe, Managing Director of TravelCafe found out this week it doesn't pay to offer something in competition to the council-owned i-site.

"We're being up front about our reasons - we want travellers and tourists to come into a TravelCafe in the hope that they will discover and make use of our other travel services" says Southcombe. "Besides, we have ample broadband capacity and it seemed somewhat petty to charge the $2” said Southcombe.

Like every other i-site in the country - the Rotorua i-site displays brochures for local and NZ tourist operators willing to pay the annual fee of $350 in return. Displaying your brochures in the local i-site is a standard part of any tourist operator's marketing activity and at $350 per slot a fairly lucrative business for the i-site particularly in tourist hotspots like Rotorua where operators number in the 100's. It's made even more lucrative when the tourists decide to book the service in the i-site itself as then they collect at least 10% commission from the operator as well.

I-sites are promoted extensively on the super-successful New Zealand website and tourists are dropped off at their door literally by the coachload.

Tourists arriving by road are directed to the i-sites by the ubiquitous 'i' road signs approaching and within the city, and the i-sites usually command prime position complements of the local council - their owner. In Rotorua the i-site also hosts it's own internet cafe, souvenir shop, currency exchange and cafe as well as operating a booking service for local and NZ accommodation, transport and activities.

The TravelCafe brochures were returned yesterday by the i-site in Rotorua who refuses to display them because they offer a competing service and stating that it wouldn't be appropriate.

Despite lengthy correspondence with Rotorua Tourism's General Manager Don Gunn and the Manager of their Economic Development Unit Southcombe has not been able to change their mind on what would appear to be a very 'on the spot' policy and certainly one that is disadvantaging tourists and visitors to Rotorua.

Southcombe claims that even if this were an acceptable policy the i-site is not applying it consistently as they happily display the brochures of backpackers who provide booking services and internet access as well, souvenir shops and other internet cafes - all of whom provide services that compete with the i-site. Southcombe adds that having invested considerably in Rotorua recently with the acquisition of two businesses, the ongoing refurbishment of a corner site and having relocated one staff member and his family from Hawke's Bay to Rotorua it is frustrating to find such an obstructive approach to new business.

"Rotorua District Council claim to offer assistance for new businesses and people moving to the region and the i-site claims to offer impartial information to the tourist - both of these are clearly not true and people should be aware before making these sorts of investment decisions. It irks me even more when we're paying over $1000 a month in rates, considerably more than we pay in other regions."

"The i-site commands a privileged position and should be promoting all relevant tourism information - not just selecting what suits their own commercial interests." says Southcombe.


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