City ef­forts to at­tract Lions fans pay off

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

There may not have been a Lions game in Manawatu, but Palmer­ston North made the most of its op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tract vis­i­tors dur­ing the rugby tour.

In the win­dow be­tween the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions test in Auck­land and the sec­ond in Welling­ton, the highly vis­i­ble Lions sup­port­ers made their pres­ence felt in Manawatu, though the value won’t be known for some weeks yet.

Linda Ste­wart, head of the Cen­tral Eco­nomic Development Agency was full of praise for the organisations, groups and in­di­vid­u­als who cham­pi­oned the re­gion’s pro­file dur­ing the tour.

‘‘It was bril­liant over­all. The [hospi­tal­ity] feed­back re­ported a real ap­petite for vis­i­tors to stay in the re­gion and we ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease in bed nights over the time. The sea of red on the streets and in pubs and restau­rants added a real vi­brancy to the city.’’

A satel­lite iSite was set up at the New Zealand Rugby Museum.

‘‘Over four days, they made in­di­vid­ual con­tact with 860 peo­ple look­ing for in­for­ma­tion over and above the reg­u­lar iSite in­quiries.’’

Ste­wart said there was also a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of mo­torhomes around town.

Manawatu’s wel­come in­cluded a driver re­viver event at the Ohakea weigh sta­tion, serv­ing sausages and re­fresh­ments along with road safety and tourist in­for­ma­tion.

Cen­tral District Po­lice In­spec­tor Mark Harrison said rugby fans posted ter­rific Face­book feed­back about the idea.

He heard they had even man­aged to di­vert some tourists to Palmer­ston North who oth­er­wise may not have vis­ited.

‘‘It was a lot of fun and well worth­while doing,’’ Harrison said.

The New Zealand Rugby Museum’s di­rec­tor Stephen Berg said they were 2100 vis­i­tors up on the pre­vi­ous year’s to­tal.

Win­ter Fes­ti­val events also at­tracted Lions sup­port­ers, some driv­ing up from Welling­ton to take part in the world’s largest scrum at­tempt. A full house greeted the Lions Male Voice Choir in the Con­ven­tion and Func­tion Cen­tre.

The city coun­cil’s com­mu­nity en­gage­ment man­ager Ian Lit­tle­worth said it was great to see so many Lions sup­port­ers en­joy­ing the fes­ti­val events.

Coun­cil eco­nomic pol­icy ad­vi­sor Peter Craw­ford said the fig­ures for June, bro­ken down by vis­i­tor type, wouldn’t be avail­able un­til July 27.


Sarah Ash­ton and her son Oliver Ash­ton, 8, sup­port­ing their favourite op­pos­ing rugby teams.

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