After four years at Destination Fiordland, tourism manager Philippa Murrell stepped down last month to focus on her B&B business in Te Anau. She tells the Ticker about the challenges the region faces, the need for social license, and transforming Te Anau into a destination in its own right.
Seasonality continues to be a challenge in our region. We are not yet a four-season destination – many operators and restaurants take a break over the winter months so it is difficult to maintain a presence for winter business.
I understand why some businesses do take this break, however, if we are to attract visitors here during the quieter winter months we need to have a broad range of services available to meet their needs.
Other challenges have included promoting Te Anau as more than a place to pass through on the way to Milford Sound. We need to ensure we are considered to be a destination in our own right, developing the key messages, emphasising these and promoting them to the travel trade and wider industry.
We have tried to meet those challenges with continual education of the travel trade about the range of activities and services we have in the region through in-market training, through our International Marketing Alliance with Wanaka and Queenstown, direct meetings with the inbound agents in New Zealand, and attending TRENZ and supporting Tourism New Zealand famils in the region.
As the gateway to Fiordland and the closest town to Milford Sound, Te Anau holds many opportunities for tourism development. Investment in infrastructure to cope with increasing visitor numbers should be the priority.
During my time at Destination Fiordland, I have seen many new businesses start up and it has been a pleasure to be able to provide information and assistance to them. We now have local tourism businesses which attend TRENZ regularly, after a long period of only having the RTO representing Fiordland. Last year, we had seven local operators attend TRENZ.
The variety of activities and accommodation options in the region is impressive and Te Anau has become a desirable destination, rather than somewhere you pass through on the way to Milford.
We have also seen new restaurants, cafes and shops open. All of this adds to the fabric of life here in Fiordland and benefits the local community, as well as the tourists.
I think as an organisation Destination Fiordland has worked hard to maintain its membership and to show that we are representing Fiordland and our members at every opportunity, whether it is through the media, the travel trade or directly to the tourists themselves.
The staff are very hardworking and passionate about what they do. It is a pleasure to promote Fiordland – we’re very lucky to live in such an amazing part of the world!
However, it is vital to have long-term plans so that the operators and the community are working together for the same results. We hear a lot about the social license to operate and I believe that as a destination we need to ensure that the community is well-informed and has an influence and part to play in the development of the tourism industry.
Visitors travel to Fiordland not only for the magnificent scenery and the unique environment it offers, but also to meet the locals and interact with them. We all need to be positive about tourism development and ensure that it is well-managed.