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Sustaining momentum, supporting growth

By Chris 30 Oct 2015

CW 03
Chris Whelan, WREDA Chief Executive

 It’s now been some six weeks since I arrived to take up the role of CEO of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA). Since then, I have been very much in listening and learning mode, discovering a great deal both about the task that lies ahead of us, and my new home.


I’ve been able to build significantly on the economic picture I formed of Wellington prior to taking on the role. However, one thing that stood out then, as now, is the huge contribution tourism makes to Wellington, as well as the industry’s very strong recent performance.

Wellington has a number of advantages as a tourism destination, which I need not spell out to those of you working in the industry. But you’ll also be acutely aware that Wellington gets little ‘handed to us on a plate’ in terms of tourism performance. Wellington works hard for its tourism numbers. That makes our region’s success all the more impressive, and a credit to industry operators, council leaders and the work of the RTO, Positively Wellington Tourism, now a business unit of WREDA.

Our collective challenge is to sustain the momentum we currently have, and build upon it, to ensure sustainable growth across the sector.

Looking to the future, we see a number of positives. Major events are on the rise, with concerts returning to Westpac Stadium. In 2017 we’ll welcome the British and Irish Lions to Wellington where they’ll play two matches in a row, maximising the regional benefits of their touring fans. The Wellington City Council Big Ideas for Economic Growth include investment in several significant visitation drivers, from an indoor stadium to a convention centre and film museum. And it’s into this environment that we’re seeing new hotel investment and development.

New development signals great market confidence in the future of Wellington’s visitor economy. It also commands that we continue to grow our visitor numbers, to maintain a healthy supply and demand relationship.

Many of the projects and partnerships that have driven 10 months of record-breaking guest night growth are those which WREDA’s formation has been designed to maximise and build on. Of particular note has been, I think, the evolution of the city’s events strategy that PWT and WCC Major Events have worked so closely together on. The Destination Wellington programme – delivered in partnership by PWT and Grow Wellington – has seen the development of a consistent and compelling narrative that informs all of the marketing of this city and region. It has also extended our footprint in Australia, to begin putting us on the map as a place of choice for talent and business, as well as visitors.

As we integrate our units into one agency, I’m interested in how the wider range of expertise our organisation now contains, can enhance the work we do even further. How can deep integration of tourism marketing strategy inform the planning and delivery of major events? How can we transfer successful digital startup incubation techniques into the tourism product development space? How can we tell our story even louder and further, in a way that truly distinguishes us from our competitors? How can we turn visitors into highly skilled residents? The opportunities are exciting.

Wellington tourism is performing very well right now. We can do even better, and WREDA plans to help make that happen. As ever, it’s about partnership, and a shared understanding through ongoing conversation. If you have bright ideas on how we can transform, modify or enhance Wellington’s visitor economy, drop us a line, or comment below. 

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