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Call to support tourism group

Posted at 12:26pm Monday 16 Nov, 2020

The region can thrive after Covid-19 with adequate funding, promotion and collaboration, according to Karen Thompson-Smith and Richard Didsbury.
The region can thrive after Covid-19 with adequate funding, promotion and collaboration, according to Karen Thompson-Smith and Richard Didsbury.

A new website, increased social media presence and a four-tier membership structure are all part of new plans to boost visitors to the Matakana Coast region, tourism operators heard last month.

More than 50 people attended the Matakana Coast Tourism (MCT) update event at Brick Bay to hear chair Richard Didsbury and manager Karen Thompson-Smith outline their hopes and plans to promote the region. It was the first get together since the previously ailing group changed its constitution in March to allow increased funding from individual businesses and the subsequent appointment of Ms Thompson-Smith. Mr Didsbury said those actions had been vital to save MCT.

“A number of years ago, we had a vibrant group promoting the area, but it was manned by volunteers and people were running out of steam. If we're going to have an empowered, vibrant organisation again, we can't all invest time during our peak season – there's a limit to what we can do. We've got to have paid employees who represent us all,” he said.

Similarly, a much-needed new website and a robust social media programme needed professional input and investment, all of which required funding from MCT membership fees. The meeting heard that the new membership structure started at Bronze for $365 a year, with Silver, Gold and Platinum levels costing $1000, $3000 and $6000 respectively.

“There's no money coming from central or local government, we have to support ourselves. ATEED has had an enormous funding cut. There is no money flowing to us,” Mr Didsbury said. “All of us have to make a bit of a leap of faith. We're not there yet, but money will help us get there. I implore you to take that journey with us.”

Ms Thompson-Smith said although it was hard to plan for 2021 in the wake of Covid-19, it was important for operators to act together to attract increased numbers of domestic visitors to the region, especially for short breaks and long weekends. There was also a need to attract groups such as retirement villages and clubs for midweek and off-season visits.

“We've got some of the best beaches in the country and the best nature walks. We have amazing fresh produce – we're the epicurean food bowl of Auckland,” she said. “And we're fortunate to have 1.6 million people just down the road, and many of them don't know you can go and see kiwi in the wild here.”

She said she was keen to work closely with ATEED, Tourism NZ, other Auckland regions and Northland to make sure the Matakana Coast region was a vital part of any visitor's itinerary.

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