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Whanganui gains $700k with tourism funding boost

Domestic visitors have confirmed Whanganui is a desirable destination and the Government has recognised this value with a boost to regional tourism funding.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash today announced the support for tourism in a detailed plan designed to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry. Whanganui can expect to get a $700k boost to its budget through the “Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan,” according to the Minister.

Along with support for struggling South Island tourism, the plan will build on the growth of tourism in regions like Whanganui.

Regional Tourism Organisations will receive a new round of annual grant funding of $26 million to manage, plan, promote and market tourism activities in their regions. The plan recognises the surge in domestic tourism in the past year has been a boost for some traditionally out-of-the-way regions, and the new investment will build on this, it says.

Paul Chaplow, Whanganui & Partners’ Strategic Lead – Visitor Industries, says the funding will add to the momentum Whanganui has built as the region’s popularity continues to grow.

“Last year we were able to invest in our promotional efforts significantly with campaigns targeted to visitors from the big centres. This helped us continue our growth trend and has contributed to Whanganui experiencing the best tourism growth in the country last year.”

Chaplow said Whanganui & Partners had unlocked $700k in Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funds last year and said the new funding would enable Whanganui & Partners to extend its promotional efforts on a similarly significant scale.

“This will mean we can maintain our promotions at a high level, which we believe has led to exponentially better outcomes for the industry.”

The Minister indicated that the application of the funding will follow a “high-trust model” and could be applied much like 2020’s Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme (STAPP) funding was, but he expected a greater focus on destination management and working with iwi and communities.

Jonathan Sykes, Whanganui & Partners’ Strategic Lead – Marketing, said the economic development agency had opted to use the previous MBIE contribution to focus on growing Whanganui’s profile on a significant scale and the latest announcement showed the resulting growth was worth celebrating.

“The Government’s decision to support our region shows the progress we’ve made has been impactful and recognises the value of our growth in the long term. This plan explicitly recognises that our region is worth investing in and has much to offer the tourism sector.”

Sykes said Whanganui & Partners had anticipated the new round of funding and had considered this possibility in its ongoing visitor campaign plans. Sykes said Whanganui’s success had been referred to as the Government outlined the plan’s details to Regional Tourism Organisations.

“We were pleased to see MBIE highlight Whanganui as an example in its feasibility study. This demonstrates confidence in Whanganui’s significant tourism assets.”

Chaplow said Whanganui & Partners’ development of a revised Destination Management Plan aligned with the Minister’s directive, which is to invest in new programmes like small business support, tourism infrastructure, the conservation estate, Māori development, economic and regional development, and mental wellbeing support.

“The Ministry also wants to see collaboration where possible, with iwi, tourism stakeholders and other regions. Whanganui’s work with Taranaki and Manawatū to establish a Coastal Arts Trail is a good example of how this can work to our mutual benefit.”

The $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan will be rolled out between now and 2023.

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