The woman who helped build a Hawke's Bay's tourism empire with a dog by her side
Tourism in Hawke’s Bay is a thriving industry. Visitor numbers continue to hit record heights as crowds flock to see what the region has to offer.
Eight and a half years ago, the industry was not in such great shape.
The global financial crisis hit, exposing the fact that tourism in Hawke’s Bay did not have its own organisation, meaning those struggling through the tough times did not have their own voice.
In stepped Annie Dundas , general manager of Hawke’s Bay Tourism, who is now in her final weeks of her well-regarded stint as the head of the organisation.
She’s heading to Auckland to work for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Rawa, a group focused on growing the tourism assets of hapu Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
Hawke’s Bay Tourism had a small budget when Dundas started. She helped create events such as FAWC and The Big Easy, to encourage people into the region.
“They were formed because a) we have an incredible food and wine story but we weren’t telling it particularly well, and we had all these beautiful cycle trails and the Big Easy was a way to get people on them.”
Dundas cooking at the most recent FAWC event, which as created to draw people into the region and tell the story of wine and food in Hawke’s Bay. Photo / File
In 2015, it was decided in order to make Hawke’s Bay hum, Hawke’s Bay Tourism needed more money.
“We put in a fairly aggressive plan to grow tourism and the council thankfully agreed to that and increased our funding over three years.”
Ultimately it lead to an increase in budget from $850,000 to $1.8 million, “which was about the right sum of money, we felt, that would deliver a really good return for visitors in Hawke’s Bay.”
That budget has since been cut to $1.5 million, which Dundas says will have a flow-on effect on the tourism industry here.
“It’s a highly competitive marketplace.
“When every other region is getting an increase in marketing funding there will be an effect on us having a reduced budget.
“We’ve got to do a better job of convincing our local population and our councillors that tourism is of value and needs to have a reasonable sum of money spent on promotion.
Dundas says there is no point having two Splash Planets in Hawke’s Bay, it’s about working together as a region. Photo / File
“It’s fine to build stuff, but if you don’t tell people it’s here then we’ve done half the job and not the full job.”
Despite the recent cuts, Dundas reckons she’s leaving the region in a better position than when she started.
“Tourism is in a really good, positive space.
“The events that come here for all ages and stages benefit everybody, new money coming into the region helps employ more people in more cafes and more tour guides and more people in museums.
“So it has kind of a cycle effect where tourism touches lots and lots of people.”
She has an idea what direction she wants tourism in Hawke’s Bay to go.
“We want to connect up Wairoa and Mahia, we want to make sure Central Hawke’s Bay has great product, and that we are all developing and evolving as well.
“So what is the big picture, what does Hawke’s Bay look like in 10 to 15 years, and I think the region needs to have a big, grown up conversation around what that is.”
She said it needed to be a regional approach, because ultimately, Hawke’s Bay was too small for people to only look after their own area.
She used the example of Napier residents calling for a world-class pool attraction for themselves, she said.
“We don’t need another Splash Planet in Napier.
“We need to make sure we’ve got an amazingly sound and fabulous Splash Planet in Hastings, and then what’s the complementary activity or attraction that we might want to build somewhere else in Hawke’s Bay.”
The only question for Dundas about her new role that remains for her is whether her dog, Tilly, a regular visitor to the Hawke’s Bay Tourism offices, will be able to come to work with her.
The two of them finish at Hawke’s Bay Tourism on April 17.