Most tourists arrive by plane into Auckland and from there disperse by plane, bus, car, bike and campervan heading South or North. The majority head South so we need a major, not to be missed, destination in the North to bring them this way and I believe that we have one in the Bay of Islands.
Sixty years ago, long before the internet, when I was in the UK, I knew that the Bay of Islands was one of the most beautiful places on the planet and the iconic name still has a world wide reputation which we can capitalise on. If we could work on this world wide brand name the whole of the Far North would benefit, just as Wanaka and Invercargill benefit from Queenstown.
I manage two websites for walkers, the BOI Walkways and the Kerikeri Five Waterfalls and the BOI one gets six times as many page views as the Kerikeri one which illustrates the power of the Bay of Islands brand name.
We have five small towns in the Bay of Islands each with their own character and with a little bit of tweaking and marketing we could make a package that would be worthy of a ‘must do’ for tourists.
Kawakawa is the most southerly community and has the railway, the cycleway and the Hundertwasser toilets and now has the new tourist information centre which makes the town the gateway to the Bay of Islands. Opua is an excellent marina and yachting centre. Russell is an old and interesting whaling town. Paihia is a tourist centre with beaches and ferries to the islands plus of course about 65 cruise ships and the community has done wonders to promote the town. Kerikeri is the largest town of the group with the heritage areas of the Stone Store and Kororipo Pa plus its vineyards, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Towns do better when they have an identity and recognising these features and amplifying them gives tourists something to believe in, that they are going to see something unique.
These towns, plus the others in Northland, are all working hard to make their towns attractive and fine places to live in but individually they do not have the reach of an existing internationally recognised brand name like the Bay of Islands.
As a start I am trying to link the walking tracks in the BOI area together into a network and promote it as a walkers destination that features the Islands, the rivers and waterfalls, the heritage and environmental beauties into a single holiday and we will see how it goes.