Western North Island Celebrates Top Three In Tourism Spend Recovery Post-covid
The latest visitor spend statistics released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) have revealed strong success for the regions of Whanganui, Taranaki, and Manawatū, claiming the top three spots in visitor spend, showcasing the strongest post-covid tourism recovery among all 31 regions nationally.
These results demonstrate the success these regions have had in telling their stories to New Zealanders and welcoming them to explore and enjoy these beautiful areas. The significant visitor industry growth recorded by the regions has been further supported by their collaboration.
Working together, the ‘Western Marketing Alliance’ of Venture Taranaki, Whanganui & Partners, and Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA, Manawatū) have developed and promoted innovative tourism products and partnered for impact beyond the traditional regional boundaries.
This strength of collaboration is demonstrated in the award-winning Coastal Arts Trail, a flagship product that encourages visitors to embark on a self-drive journey through the three regions to discover an immersive array of arts and culture.
Recognised at the 2022 Economic Development New Zealand Awards and highly commended in the Best Practice Collaboration category and gaining national and global media attention, the trail includes more than 50 stops along the lower west coast of the North Island with a mix of public art, street art, galleries and museums and off-the-beaten track studios.
The success of Taranaki, Manawatū, and Whanganui not only represents the regions’ traditional strength in domestic visitation, but also early signs of a shift in visitor behaviour post-COVID-19 with travellers increasingly seeking out off-the-beaten-path destinations and immersive experiences.
Janet Reynolds, CEDA’s Marketing and Communications Manager, commented, "These results are a testament to the effectiveness of strategic collaboration and the growing appeal of Taranaki, Whanganui, and Manawatū, as destinations that offer not just outstanding natural beauty but also enriching and distinctive experiences that aren’t your typical ‘bucket list’ experience that dominated pre-pandemic."
The figures focus on tourism spend in September 2023 compared to the same period in 2019, providing a useful overview of the recovery of the tourism sector across all regions post-COVID-19. Notably the figures also reflect strong international spend for all three regions, with international visitor spend up more than 150% for both Whanganui and Manawatū and sitting at 124% for Taranaki when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
"Collectively not only have we weathered the effects of the pandemic but we have emerged stronger than ever, capturing the attention and dollar of both domestic and international visitors as they seek out unique New Zealand experiences that haven’t traditionally featured on the ‘iconic NZ must-do list’, says Brylee Flutey, GM Destination, Venture Taranaki.
"Gone are the days of the iconic NZ bag of tourism tricks for many reasons, and these stats reflect that those visiting and travelling around Aotearoa agree," she continues.
"We remain committed in our partnership, and across our kaupapa to building on this success, further elevating our visitor offerings as individuals, and as a collective as we continue to build on the significant domestic and international progress and momentum we’ve established in recent years", said Paul Chaplow, Strategic Lead, Visitor Industries at Whanganui & Partners.