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Shake-up signalled for Tasman's i-Site operations

April 10th, 2013
[by David Armstrong]

Tasman District's three i-Site businesses at Murchison, Takaka and Motueka are due for a huge shake-up, although the outcome is still unknown for Motueka's better-performing i-Site operation.

The surprise announcement was made at last night's Community Board meeting during a presentation by Nelson Tasman Tourism's (NTT) chief executive Lynda Keene, Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne and TDC's CEO Lindsay McKenzie.

There have been mutterings around town for several months about the problems the i-Sites have been facing as tourist numbers decline, and the likelihood of closing or privatising the Murchison and Golden Bay operations has been mentioned in the media, but where Motueka's i-Site fits into that scenario has been uncertain.

Tasman Bay Promotion Association (TBPA) runs Motueka i-Site as an independent organisation, receiving funding from TDC via NTT as well as subscriptions from members who are tourism operators and a percentage of bookings made locally through i-Site.

Lynda revealed that while Murchison and Golden Bay i-Sites have been operating at a loss for a few years, Motueka's has been marginally profitable but has been seeing lighter foot traffic as the global recession lingers and more travellers book directly via the internet.

Lindsay said that as part of its formal statement of intent to its shareholders (the two councils) and following four years with the funding issue "coming to the boil", NTT has decided it will cease funding i-Sites.

NTT will continue to receive the same amount of funding from the shareholding councils, but will maintain in some way just the Nelson and Motueka i-Sites and spend the bulk of the funds on "destination marketing", or marketing the region as a whole to visitors.

Lindsay said that as a result "Motueka i-Site's $50,000 funding from NTT is under consideration and may be at risk".

Mayor Richard Kempthorne added that because Motueka is managing to at least break even to date, "a special proposal will be considered to handle Motueka".

Lynda said that the continuing losses cannot be sustained as a business model. "Seventy-five to eighty percent of i-Site users are from overseas and the numbers are in decline. "The stats have been tracking down over the past three years."

The Nelson and Tasman region gets about $350 million a year from tourism, and remains New Zealand's seventh ranked region for tourist popularity, but to maintain that more destination marketing is required as that is the most common business model around the country.

"i-Site centres are important, communities say, but they need to be funded under a new service model," she said.

The current status of analysis and planning remains basic and unfocused, however. Lindsay pointed out that the "conversation" was three-way - NTT, TBPA and TDC. TBPA and Motueka i-Site had not even officially joined the process yet, and were hearing it for the first time at the last evening's meeting.

"We're not yet in the position to put up a model for Motueka [i-Site]," said Richard. "The conversation is just beginning now. We're just alerting the Community Board to the issue."

[Read the April 11 Nelson Mail article on the i-Site closure issue]


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