Whanganui New Zealand's best performing tourist destination

Visitors love Whanganui and the newest data shows how impressive our tourism growth is.

Whanganui was the country’s top-performing region for tourism in the last year recording growth of 3 per cent and climbing from second to first place.

Out of 31 Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) in New Zealand, only two others recorded growth in the year ended November 2020; Wairarapa was up 2 per cent on 2019 and Northland had 1 per cent growth.

The newly released data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) shows how severely COVID has affected other regions. Fiordland sits at the bottom of the table at -33 per cent while Auckland recorded the second worse result with -26 per cent.

Whanganui’s result was exceptional in the year in which COVID struck, Whanganui & Partners’ Strategic Lead for Tourism Paul Chaplow said.

International tourists usually make up about 20 per cent of visitors to Whanganui, but despite the loss of internationals the district had not only managed to make up the shortfall but to also grow its share of the market.

“The results are thrilling but we’ve been seeing impressive numbers month-to-month so we were expecting a good year-end outcome,” Chaplow said.

It was worth noting that while there were more national visitors due to international markets being less available, most other regions experienced a loss in growth, and Wairarapa and Northland saw a slowing in growth.

Whanganui & Partners had concentrated its advertising efforts nationally, helped in part by its success in unlocking $700k in MBIE funding to boost the Whanganui RTO’s budget.

Chaplow said highly visible advertising campaigns had attracted visitors from the big centres and resulted in feedback indicating many of those people intended to return.

While Whanganui & Partners spent more on advertising in 2020, the results of the spend had been exponentially better, he said. The benefits could be measured not only in increased visitor numbers but also in traffic to Whanganui’s visitor-oriented websites – with over 100k people visiting the sites since July.

The trend of much higher national visitor numbers looks likely to continue, Chaplow said. Data from Whanganui’s i-SITE Visitor Centre showed the district had seen around double the number of domestic visitors during December compared to the same month the previous year.

In particular, the number of Auckland and Wellington-based visitors had risen significantly.

With more visitors coming, both for events and longer holidays, Chaplow said it was essential that local businesses made the most of the opportunity.

“Most of the feedback we get is overwhelmingly positive, but we do hear comments about businesses and services being closed at key times. While we understand how important lifestyle is to businesses and service providers in Whanganui, we know that to keep growing we need to work on our supply – not just our demand.”

Chaplow said businesses that opened over peak holiday periods had noticed the surge in visitor numbers, and others that had remained closed had indicated they would reconsider their opening hours in future.

Whanganui i-SITE staff also reiterated the need for businesses to update their hours through Google My Business, so that people looking for shops, cafes, restaurants and service providers could more easily identify what was available in town.

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