Press Release – Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development
Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) today announced a proposed new organisational structure for its regional i-SITE visitor information network that, if adopted, will result in the closure of the five i-SITEs located at Orewa, Takapuna, Kumeu, Pukekohe and Bombay.
“We have carried out an internal review of the twelve legacy i-SITEs inherited from the former councils when ATEED was established two years ago to ensure they are meeting the changing information needs of international and domestic visitors, and reflecting the changing tourism market mix,” ATEED Chief Executive Brett O’Riley said today.
“Four of the twelve, located at the International and Domestic terminals, Sky City and Princes Wharf, are performing well and account for the bulk of users, and a further three located at Waiheke Island, Warkworth and Devonport are holding their own, but the other five are struggling and there is little prospect things will improve for them.”
“It is difficult for us to justify the $2.7 million that these five i-SITEs are expected to lose over the next four years, particularly in the current economic climate.”
“We have been consulting with i-SITE managers and staff, Local Boards and local tourism operators about the i-SITE network since June, and will be discussing the proposal with the 20 affected i-SITE managers and staff over the next fortnight.”
“This is an unsettling period for everyone and a final decision on these five i-SITEs will be announced on 9 November,” Brett O’Riley said.
Brett O’Riley said the consultation had resulted in a number of interesting opportunities for further discussion with Local Boards and tourism operators around alternative ways to get information to visitors and to promote local areas.
“We know that well informed visitors tend to stay longer and spend more when they are here, so getting them the information they need in a way that suits the current market is vital to transforming Auckland from a gateway to a destination,” Brett O’Riley said.
“The reality is that the tourism market is changing rapidly, both in terms of the mix of visitors and in terms of the ways they access information before they leave home and when they are here in the region,” Brett O’Riley said.
“The latest Tourism New Zealand visitor experience survey shows significantly higher smart phone, tablet and laptop use by visitors, with laptop and iPad use up 19 per cent and smart phone use up by a staggering 65 per cent in the last year alone. The survey also shows that i-SITE use is down 27 per cent over the last two years.”
“Visitor use of i-SITEs has been further impacted by fewer numbers of independent travellers and visitors from long-haul markets, who have tended to use i-SITEs, and more from China and Australia, who tend not to.”
“Changing visitor information patterns and visitor mix show that i-SITEs work best these days when located at gateway and strategic locations with high foot traffic, essentially they need to be where the visitors already are rather than trying to serve as a way to attract visitors to an area.”
Brett O’Riley said that should the proposed changes become final, affected i-SITE managers and staff would be given priority with respect to recruitment for suitable roles that are currently vacant within ATEED and that ATEED would be working with Auckland Council and the other Council Controlled Organisations to identify other possible opportunities for affected i-SITE personnel.
Questions and answers
What is an i-SITE?
i-SITE is the brand name for the Visitor Information Network (VIN Inc.), a membership based organisation for information centres, wholly owned by Tourism New Zealand. VIN maintains specific membership standards to ensure delivery of a consistent service standard to visitors across the network. There are approximately 90 i-SITE accredited centres across New Zealand.
Where are the 12 i-SITEs located?
ATEED operates i-SITEs at the International and Domestic airport terminals, Sky City, Princes Wharf, Waiheke Island, Devonport, Warkworth, Bombay, Kumeu, Takapuna, Pukekohe and Orewa. An additional seasonal i-SITE is operated on Great Barrier Island during the summer months, and a mobile i-SITE is available to support major events.
Why do visitors use i-SITEs?
The majority of i-SITE users enter with the purpose of collecting information, mainly brochures and maps. User surveys show that satisfaction with the i-SITE experience is relatively high, primarily due to positive staff interaction.
How many people use the i-SITEs?
ATEED i-SITE usage ranges from 350,000 users at the Auckland International Airport to 8,000 users at Kumeu. The trend for i-SITE use is decreasing, reflecting the greater number of visitors using technology to access information.
How else do visitors get information?
ATEED provides visitor information through the Aucklandnz.com website, the visitor information 0800 call centre, information kiosks, at visitor attractions and destinations, and can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/aucklandNZ on Twitter @Auckland_NZ.
Are visitors using technology more to access information?
A majority of international visitors bring a smart phone, tablet or laptop. Of those who used technology in New Zealand, two thirds used it to collect visitor information. The pattern is similar for domestic tourists.
How is the tourism market changing?
Visitors from long-haul markets such as the UK, US and Europe are declining due to GFC and high NZ dollar. Forecast growth will come from China and South East Asia with continued growth from Australia. Visitors from Australia and Asia have lower levels of awareness and use of i-SITEs.
Are changing visitor demographics affecting information access?
Young visitors, adventure tourists and families tend to be high technology users. Older visitors tend to make more use of package or coach tours where the itinerary is pre-determined. These trends contribute to declining i-SITE use.
How much do the five i-SITEs proposed for closure lose?
i-SITEs generate income for ATEED through commission on tourism bookings made through i-SITEs and margins on tourism product sold at i-SITES. The financial performance of the five i-SITEs proposed for closure shows forecast deficits for 2012/23 of:
• Takapuna: $194,131
• Kumeu: $143,467
• Orewa: $149,763
• Bombay: $136,989
• Pukekohe: $62,944
How will local areas be served for visitor information should the i-SITE close?
ATEED will work with local tourism operators and Local Boards in the areas that would be affected by i-SITE proposed closures to identify more cost effective ways to service visitor information need.
These alternative delivery opportunities could include the use of nearby Auckland Council Service Centres and Libraries, more extensive use of kiosk-type access to the ATEED 0800 call centre and AucklandNZ website, wider location of brochure display stands at appropriate venues, static outdoor visitor information maps and information boards, more use of the mobile i-SITE to support major events and at prominent locations.
How many ATEED i-SITE employees will be affected by the proposed closures?
Should the five proposed i-SITE closures be confirmed, a total of 20 full-time and part-time managers and staff will be affected. ATEED will give affected employees priority for recruitment for suitable roles in ATEED and will work with Auckland Council and other Council Controlled Organisations to identify further possible recruitment opportunities.
How will people be able to buy bus tickets should the i-SITE close?
A significant number of i-SITE users at some locations, for example Takapuna and Pukekohe, visit in order to top-up bus passes or to buy train tickets. ATEED will work with Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and local retailers to provide convenient alternatives.
When will the final outcome of the proposal be announced?
ATEED will discuss the proposal with affected i-SITE managers and staff over the next two weeks and will announce the outcome on Friday 9 November 2012.
Has ATEED consulted over the review?
ATEED has consulted with i-SITE managers and staff, Local Boards with an i-SITE in their area, local tourism operators and business associations, and has engaged with other Local Boards, Auckland Councillors with an i-SITE in their ward, other Auckland Councillors, and Auckland Council over the review, and appreciates the feedback and comment received.
What do visitors look for when they visit?
Surveys show that international visitors are looking to experience our Harbour and Gulf islands, our beaches and natural beauty, our Maori and Pacific cultures and our first class food and wines, whereas domestic visitors tend to be looking for events, attractions, shopping, entertainment and nightlife.
What is the goal for economic growth from tourism?
ATEED aims to grow the Auckland visitor economy from $3.3 billion last year to $6.0 billion by 2021.