New Zealand South Otago trying to push as a tourism destination

South Otago lies in the south east of the South Island of New Zealand. As the name suggests, it forms the southernmost part of the geographical region of Otago.

New Zealand South Otago trying to push as a tourism destination

South Otago lies in the south east of the South Island of New Zealand. As the name suggests, it forms the southernmost part of the geographical region of Otago.

The exact definition of the area designated as South Otago is imprecise, as the area is not defined in geopolitical or administrative terms, but rather by the area’s topographical features and the similarity of its communities. Overall, it encompasses some 8,000 km² (3,100 sq mi) and has a population of approximately 20,000, but these figures vary according to the various definitions of South Otago’s boundaries.

The area is often seen as roughly congruous with the Clutha District, which has its administrative center at Balclutha.

Clutha district, a tourism manager says. Balclutha reporter Helena de Reus talks to two of the district’s tourism operators planning to boost its profile.

Less than half an hour’s drive south of Dunedin, a tan sign welcomes visitors to “Clutha Country – where everyone says hello.”

The area, officially dubbed the Clutha district, has a population of 17,350 and is home to some of the South’s best scenery.

Over the past year, businesses and organizations have been working towards building Clutha’s reputation as a tourist destination.

Clutha Development Trust destination marketing manager and district councilor Jo Lowrey said the key was to get visitors to stop and stay in the district.

“You have to stop and stay to get the most out of your visit … We have so many wonderful attractions and businesses. It’s key for visitors to stop and spend money with our operators.”

The trust wanted economic growth, while promoting the district, Mrs. Lowrey said.

Last year she helped form the Clutha Country Tourism collective to create a network of tourism operators and groups within the district, to promote Clutha and boost visitor numbers to the area.

The collective aims to provide a joint voice for tourism operators, as well as the opportunity to share information, liaise with other tourism groups and promote tourism networking.

The new group met for the first time last July, and produced a trade product manual to present at an inbound tourism operators’ annual trade day.

This year, with the support of the Clutha Development Trust, a new manual was created, with a glossier design and more operators included.

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Twenty-five local tourism operators were included in the manual, which offered a range of information, such as travel times, attractions, activities and suggested itineraries in the Clutha region.

Mrs. Lowrey represented Clutha Country Tourism at an inbound tourism operators’ trade day in Auckland earlier this month.

The day involved marketing the Clutha district directly to inbound tour operators – companies or groups that arrange tours and travel arrangements in New Zealand for people coming into the country – and tourism media.

Inbound tour operators told her tourists were interested in staying in the Clutha, but they did not know what was available, Mrs. Lowrey said.

It was a chance to put Clutha Country tourism on the map and showcase what the district had to offer, including new attractions such as the Clutha Gold Trail and the Catlins River-Wisp Loop Track, she said.

“I think Clutha is undiscovered – we’re a hidden gem.”

The trade day offered a chance to network with lower South Island regional tourism operators, who recognized visitors booking a holiday to New Zealand often missed smaller regions, she said.

While Mrs. Lowrey manned the Clutha Country booth, two South Otago businesses – Peggydale, from Balclutha, and Cascade Creek Retreat, from Milton – shared a booth next door.

“It would be great to see more of our operators attend this event next year … One operator from the Clutha Country trade product manual has a confirmed booking already, showing that the economic benefit is coming back to our tourism operators and local community.”

Mervyn Jones, co-owner of Peggydale, said trade days were a chance to learn what inbound tour operators were looking for.

“The Clutha district as a whole needs to design packages that will sell and which also increase the number of bed nights in our district,” Mr. Jones said.

Mrs. Lowrey said the interest and feedback from both the manual and the trade day was “incredibly positive.”

“Clutha Country is not just a drive-through. Stop, stay and enjoy. It is a place of big wide open spaces, deep rivers, blue mountains and undisturbed beaches. And most of all, it is where everyone says hello!

“The trust is also working on a visitor strategy, which will be the foundation of the future direction of Clutha tourism.

“Surveying of visitors began about four months ago, and Clutha residents would be approached further down the track,” she said.

“It’s a really exciting time for the district.”

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