Hamilton & Waikato Tourism is responsible for marketing the region to domestic and international visitors who now pour $1.57 billion annually into Hamilton city and the wider region.
Up until now, unlike Northland, Queenstown, Bay of Plenty and Auckland, the Waikato has lacked a single, strong consumer brand identity to help attract visitors. This was identified as a key weakness in the regional tourism plan adopted in 2016, and developing a consumer brand was prioritised as one of five 'game-changing' projects for the visitor economy.
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism (HWT) chief executive Jason Dawson says the Mighty Waikato brand was developed in partnership with local tourism operators who helped fund the work privately alongside HWT, Te Waka and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. All up, including research, stakeholder consultation and development, the two-year project cost $60,000.
Initial work was done by Principals, which also developed the Waikato Story, with implementation and roll-out the responsibility of Hamilton agency, King St.
Dawson says Mighty Waikato was 'soft-launched' to operators six weeks ago and was already in use, including at Hamilton Airport. It reflects a strong, passionate region with a powerful history and natural beauty, he says.
'Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Our city and region needed something unique to differentiate our offering from other parts of New Zealand. We’ve got a strong story to tell and the industry wants to tell it – this gives us the platform to do that and do it well.'
Dawson is backed by Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall and Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne.
'Developing a strong consumer brand is really important and needs to be done well to resonate with both domestic and international visitors,' says England-Hall.
'Regional differentiation is key to our national visitor strategy and ensures visitors understand the unique aspects of a destination. The Waikato region has a huge amount to offer and the new regional visitor brand will really help to showcase this.'
Dunne agrees a defined visitor brand is important.
'Each region has something different to offer and a clear unified story helps to showcase a region’s unique proposition to potential visitors.'
Waikato’s economic development agency (Te Waka) supports economic plans that focus on building regional and local identity and chair Dallas Fisher says Te Waka supported the brand.
Hamilton mayor Andrew King says Hamilton remains the 'capital of the region so this will be great for our city.' Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams also gives it the thumbs-up.
'As a major hub for accommodation, retail, hospitality and events, Hamilton, and our CBD, is always going to be a winner from any enhanced visitor promotions and increased visitor numbers so we're very happy.'