City efforts to attract Lions fans pay off
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.