On 1 April 2021 the Southland and Fiordland RTOs will both be operated by the Southland Regional Development Agency, Great South. Both RTOs will also be undertaking a name change to position them for the future.
Visit Fiordland and Visit Southland will be the new identities, with Visit Fiordland replacing Destination Fiordland.
The visual identity of both RTOs will now align and this signals the joint ownership, resourcing and strategic opportunity to better align tourism development and promotional activity across the whole Southland region.
The severe impact of COVID-19 on tourism businesses in Southland is still unrelenting, especially in Te Anau and Fiordland where international visitors have historically accounted for nearly 80% of annual business. This has been the primary catalyst for a review of RTO services which has taken around nine months of negotiation to bring to fruition.
Destination Fiordland has proudly operated as a membership organisation for many years with core operational funding provided by Southland District Council (SDC) and members funding marketing activity. With very severe financial impacts on member businesses this no longer remained viable, so SDC will now contract Great South to provide these services in Fiordland.
Funding for the Southland RTO is provided to Great South from all funding shareholders; SDC, Invercargill City Council, Gore District Council and Environment Southland.
Fiordland sits within the Southland District Council territory and is one of New Zealand’s most recognisable visitor regions encompassing Fiordland National Park, Te Anau, Manapouri, Piopiotahi Milford Sound, Patea Doubtful Sound and many unforgettable experiences that have attracted visitors for well over 100 years.
The rest of Southland is covered by three local authority areas and includes Invercargill City where exciting developments are currently transforming the city, Bluff - famous for Oysters and much more, characterful Gore in the heart of Eastern Southland as well as treasured visitor destinations such as The Catlins and Rakiura Stewart Island. The Southland Murihiku Destination Strategy 2019-2029 has also framed many future development opportunities which are currently being actioned.
Great South CEO, Graham Budd notes:
“While things currently remain very tough in the visitor sector we are committed to making this change resonate positively with our regional tourism businesses as well as industry and travel trade partners domestically and internationally. Our large region offers incredible diversity and complementary experiences but this diversity and long history also demands that we maintain two RTOs to ensure appropriate ongoing focus and representation. This is a time of change and we have embraced this. We have to now start looking ahead to a recovery of international tourism and how to best position ourselves for that”.
“We think Visit Fiordland and Visit Southland are ideal for our newly aligned RTOs with a clear identity and purpose inherent in the naming.”
Visit Southland will be based in the Great South Invercargill office and Visit Fiordland will continue to have an office in Te Anau which will also house other Great South team members. Some staff will work across both RTOs while others will be more dedicated to one part of the region as required. Great South GM Tourism and Events, Bobbi Brown, having overall management responsibility for both.