I was at Pilot Bay earlier this week, watching a cruise ship go out along with many other locals and visitors also enjoying the last remaining sunshine of the day. The Mount was alive with holiday-makers as the year end break approaches and I wondered how many tourists we had in our city that day.
Tourism Bay Of Plenty launched a "Mates Rates" campaign this week and I read about our region's 4.4 million visitor bed nights again. This impressive figure has bugged me since I first heard it from Tourism BOP over a Joint Governance meeting. I fail to see an average of 12,000 visitors to our region each day. Where are they?
I heard this again at a Mount Mainstreet event at the i-port a few weeks ago. Specifically about 1.3 million of those visitor bed nights are commercial and the rest are from those visiting friends and relatives. Apparently we receive more visitor bed nights than Rotorua and Queenstown. How is this calculated anyway? Do all the accommodation establishments report it?
Not that long ago, I had asked Rhys Arrowsmith (General Manager of Tourism BOP) how many beds the Bay Of Plenty region actually has. If visitor bed nights are a measure of tourism performance, I would need to know the full score, that is the figure at 100% occupancy. I believe that visitor bed nights may also be used to gauge the performance of Tourism BOP as I would like to see increasing number of visitor bed nights year on year.
I remain unconvinced with the visitor bed nights figure. If we do receive 1.3 million commercial bed nights a year and I will even be generous to base that on a 75% average occupancy (which is exceptionally generous for the winter months), the Bay Of Plenty would then have at least 4,700 beds. That appears excessive to me and I believe it requires a little more investigation. Perhaps it includes campervans and caravans?
It would be interesting to see how our region's tourist arrivals can grow without the number of beds increasing in the past years or expected to increase in the near future. Is the impressive visitor bed nights figure true or has it been inflated to demonstrate the importance of tourism in order to justify Tourism BOP's ongoing existence and funding?
I pay a lot of attention to council-controlled organisations (CCOs) that do not provide a core service. I believe that if they are consistently making losses and require Council funding to survive, then they should be disposed of. If Tourism BOP is doing an indispensable job, then they should be largely and voluntarily funded by parties that directly benefit from their marketing activities, ie. tour operators, retailers, etc.. What I have been advised by friends in the tourism business is contrary to a great job.
I do believe that tourism is important and of much benefit to Tauranga's economy. In this instance, I feel a need to justify my support for a CCO that receives over $1 million funding a year especially that I have since noted close to 85% of that amount has been spent on salaries and wages, cruise ambassadors and trustee expenses. I fail to see why such a small organisation is so staff-heavy.
As a tourism marketing organisation, I believe the larger proportion of funding should be spent on marketing activities, not human resources. Unfortunately, Elected Members have no authority to dictate how a CCO should be run.
From the next financial year, Tourism BOP's funding will be reduced by 25% and I would be actively observing how large a proportion of that ratepayer money is spent on salaries and wages. Fortunately, we do have the right to question a CCO's performance.
In the meantime, I am still waiting to learn our full score.