Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time at the New Zealand tourism industry's most important international trade event, TRENZ, where leading tourism operators and international tourism buyers come together each year to network and do business.
The teams from Experience Mid Canterbury, Hotel Ashburton and Mount Hutt Marketing Group were all present; showcasing the best our district has to offer and selling travel packages.
Buyers at TRENZ are looking for tourism products such as hotels, attractions, activities and tours that they can sell to consumers in their home countries.
Tourism brings millions of dollars into Ashburton district each year and last year the figure was well in excess of $100 million. This serves to not only keep our overall economy resilient; it also acts as a support industry for our key economic driver – farming.
Interestingly, international visitors make up around 40 percent of total visitor night stays here at present, with Australia representing the most guest night stays and visitor spend. The UK comes in second however China is expected to take this position soon based on future flight capacities into Christchurch airport.
We are lucky to live in a region with such naturally beautiful surroundings that draws people from all over the world but at the same time a lot of hard work has gone into creating a tourist industry that is suited to, and takes advantage of, these stunning surroundings. Methven, for example, used to predominantly be a farm supply town but is now also a bustling ski resort in the winter months thanks to people in the district's vision, determination and sheer hard work.
For tourism to continue to be a success in mid Canterbury, it is essential that we maintain high standards of service. Visitors expect a certain standard and judge us by how we do or do not deliver. Whether it is running a café, jet boating business or a B&B, each local tourist operator plays a part in the overall experience visitors have when they come to mid Canterbury. I think we would all agree we want visitors to have the kind of really positive experience in mid Canterbury that sees them return and recommend it to others too.
As was highlighted in our tourism packages at TRENZ, the skiing, hot air ballooning, high country activities, fishing, golf, hiking, white water rafting, mountain biking and jet boating we have in mid-Canterbury are arguably some of the best in New Zealand - not to mention our range of accommodation. And in Ashburton itself, our new EA Networks Centre and Art Gallery and Heritage Centre will soon serve to enhance visitors' experience too. The fact that all these things are within a relatively short distance of each other is another big draw card.
It is easy to take our beautiful lakes, rivers and mountains and all that they offer for granted when you live here but I think we all need to make the time to get out there and enjoy what is right on our doorstep. Be proud to live in a place with a backdrop as alluring as the Alps and make sure you are tourism champions for our district.