Regional Tourism New Zealand (RTNZ) Director of Destination Management Kiri Goulter was in Gisborne this month to meet with regional leaders and present to the Destination Tairāwhiti Advisory Group.


RTNZ represents the interests of Regional Tourism Organisations (RTO) across Aotearoa, providing advocacy and support to build sector capability.

Over the past five years, Ms Goulter said many RTOs had transitioned from a focus on marketing activities to a more holistic approach to destination management.

"It's about stewardship of our people and place. In 2019, there were 1.5 billion travellers across the globe and the term 'over tourism' was becoming more prominent in some places. New Zealand also had steady growth which put pressure on some parts of the country, whilst other areas were looking to attract more visitors. 

"From a climate perspective, globally we started seeing flight-shaming and communities pushing back from having too many visitors. As much as tourism benefits our communities, it can also have a downside if not managed appropriately, putting pressure on our infrastructure, environment and communities."

In 2019, Destination Management Plans (DMPs) became a core part of the Government's tourism strategy. They use a holistic framework to consider economic, social, cultural, and environmental risks and opportunities.

"DMPs take a long-term view, focusing on regional value propositions, product and experience development and sustainable practices. It also considers the workforce and future skills and capabilities.

"Destination stewardship requires communities, mana whenua, industry and broader stakeholders to come together with a shared vision for tourism and how the destination should operate," Ms Goulter said.

A recurring challenge for many RTOs nationwide is securing sufficient funding for the region to deliver the broader range of actions within the DMPs.

About 90 per cent of funding for RTOs comes from local government, but increasing cost pressures on councils may result in some RTOs receiving less funding.

"RTOs are expected to do more with the same amount of money or sometimes less. We're in a different operating environment than when RTOs were established 30 years ago. We need to ensure tourism continues to benefit communities and protect and enhance our environment. Therefore, we need to look at how we structure and fund tourism so that it can grow sustainably and avoid the challenges of the past."