Big drive to im­prove city for visi­tors and cit­i­zens

Weekend Herald - - Viewpoints -

Some prob­lems are nice to have. Most of New Zealand’s prob­lems to­day are those of pros­per­ity and pop­u­la­tion growth — cater­ing for it and con­trol­ling its en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts.

Those prob­lems are par­tic­u­larly large in Auck­land. Not only is it a mag­net city for im­mi­grants but, Auck­lan­ders might be sur­prised to learn, it is also the coun­try’s largest tourist des­ti­na­tion.

Cater­ing for them is a ma­jor in­dus­try in the city and im­prov­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence is the aim of a project launched by the Auck­land Coun­cil’s tourism arm, Ateed, yes­ter­day.

Des­ti­na­tion AKL 2025, we re­port to­day, is not try­ing to boost num­bers or hold tourists here for a few more days be­fore they go on to the coun­try’s bet­ter-known at­trac­tions, which was the aim of Ateed’s last project.

That might still be the wish of those in the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness, es­pe­cially those now pay­ing a spe­cial rate of Ateed’s up­keep, but the agency has brought in Martin Sned­den to head an in­dus­try lead­ers’ group for this project and he tells us to­day, “We don’t want Auck­lan­ders re­sent­ing visi­tors. This is a bit of a shift.”

By chang­ing the thrust from the quan­tity to the qual­ity of vis­its, Sned­den ex­pects the project will be bet­ter re­ceived. For qual­ity means ad­dress­ing many of the prob­lems that con­cern res­i­dents as well as tourists.

Those in­clude beach clo­sures af­ter rain, traf­fic con­ges­tion, the lim­i­ta­tions of public trans­port. Tourists gen­er­ally do not have their own ve­hi­cles and Auck­land lacks a cen­tral bus ter­mi­nal. It must be a dif­fi­cult place for visi­tors to get around.

It also means fill­ing labour short­ages in the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, es­pe­cially if im­mi­gra­tion in that cat­e­gory is to be re­duced. One of Ateed’s stated aims is to de­velop a train­ing and em­ploy­ment strat­egy in the sec­tor for Auck­land’s youth.

But the fo­cus is not en­tirely on prob­lems. Im­prov­ing Auck­land as a tourism des­ti­na­tion also means adding to its at­trac­tions and en­rich­ing its cul­ture for cit­i­zens as well as visi­tors.

Sned­den is call­ing that “au­then­tic­ity”. He says, “Au­then­tic strength is when visi­tors en­counter a place where the peo­ple there re­ally love it. They love to live there and work there.”

There is much to love about Auck­land, which cit­i­zens some­times only re­alise when they take a vis­i­tor to a high van­tage point and look down on the har­bour and Gulf and the city sprawl­ing along its lovely coasts.

Some of the most pop­u­lar van­tage points are be­ing closed to ve­hi­cles to re­store their au­then­tic­ity as sites sa­cred to Ma¯ori.

Much more could be done to put New Zealand’s in­dige­nous cul­ture in

Au­then­tic strength is when visi­tors en­counter a place where the peo­ple there re­ally love it. Martin Sned­den

front of Auck­land’s visi­tors.

Other cul­tures should be more ev­i­dent too. Ateed points out that Auck­land is the coun­try’s most di­verse re­gion, where nearly half the pop­u­la­tion is Asian or Poly­ne­sian.

Visi­tors should quickly re­alise they have come to an au­then­tic city of the Pacific and one that also shares an ocean with Asia.

Growth can­not be ig­nored, vis­i­tor num­bers will con­tinue to rise as long as the na­tional econ­omy re­mains sound, and a new con­ven­tion cen­tre is about to be added to Auck­land’s at­trac­tions.

But Ateed’s fo­cus is chang­ing to what it calls “des­ti­na­tion man­age­ment”, con­cen­trat­ing on the qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of those at­trac­tions.

If it can turn fine words into vis­i­ble re­sults, Auck­land will be an even bet­ter place.

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