Changing visitor needs brings new planning for future visitor information services for Nelson
Posted on Friday 3 June 2022
Changing patterns of visitor behaviour and the lack of international visitors over the past two years has led the Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA) to rethink how visitor information services are delivered in Nelson and pause the physical information services delivered through the i-SITE at Millers Acre, Nelson, for up to 24 months.
Bookings and sales have been the basis of the i-SITE business model since it opened in 2005, however this is no longer a viable business model. Over the past ten years there has been a substantial decline in visitor volumes and decreased bookings at the i-SITE as changing visitor needs and behaviour, particularly moves online, have meant in-person information and bookings have become less relevant to many visitors. The change and decline have sharply accelerated since COVID-19, to a point that services can no longer be sustained on the current model.
Although borders are reopening it isn’t expected that there will be a high demand for the i-SITE services this coming summer. Current predictions estimate the country won’t see a full return of our international visitors until 2024/2025 (source: Infometrics).
The temporary closure will give the NRDA time to look at what visitors want and review how to encourage them to support our visitor sector and the community while they’re here.
“It is time to review and rethink the provision of visitor information to be fully relevant to our future visitors as we plan for their return over the coming 18 months. Pausing the i-SITE, gives us the time to seek a new solution for visitors that will better fit their future needs while ensuring a new operation will be financially viable” says Fiona Wilson, CE of NRDA.
Tracee Neilson, Visitor Destination Manager at NRDA says “Nelson has an opportunity to do something innovative in delivering visitor information; ideally encouraging visitors to explore more and care more while they’re in our region.
During the pausing of the physical i-SITE we can revamp our visitor services to provide innovative and cost-effective services that will benefit both visitors and locals. We now have the time to better understand future visitor needs as we are already aware that visitors are pre-booking more of their itineraries before leaving home.”
While the i-SITE has always been a small part of interaction with visitors to the region, the key priority for Nelson Regional Development Agency is connecting with them prior to getting to the region at the inspiration/decision making phase.
The NRDA already works internationally to influence these pre-booked itineraries so that more local businesses are included, and more time is allocated to Nelson Tasman.
The focus over the next 12 months will be to continue to support our tourism businesses and build on strategies to influence via online and digital marketing that the NRDA delivers for the region.
Many other towns and cities across New Zealand have already made the difficult decision to close their i-SITEs, some permanently and some temporarily, demonstrating a current trend in behaviour within the visitor sector due to various reasons. Christchurch, Oamaru and Invercargill are just a few examples of i-SITEs which have stopped opereating over the past few years.
“Our current and past staff at the i-SITE have done an amazing job to provide information and booking services through very challenging times. The team will be fully supported as we work through the coming months” Fiona Wilson, CE of NRDA adds.
The Department of Conservation Visitor Centre at Millers Acre will continue to operate at the current site and is unaffected by the i-SITE closure. The Motueka i-SITE, Takaka and Murchison information centres are run independently from the Nelson i-SITE and this decision does not change their support for the visitor experience in Nelson Tasman region.
The i-SITE will close its doors on 30 June, however the phone line (03-548 2304) and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) will continue to operate and be managed by NRDA. Over the next few months, the NRDA will be working closely with the Nelson City Council to ensure visitor services in Nelson during this time can continue. A detailed transition plan will be announced in the coming weeks.