As part of the Government’s Tourism Recovery Package, a $47.75 million Regional Events Fund was made available to the nine International Marketing Alliance groupings of Regional Tourism Organisations.

The purpose of the Regional Events Fund (REF) is to stimulate inter and intra-regional visitation through funding events that will encourage expenditure missed by international visitor markets over a four-year period (2021 - 2024).

The Tourism Recovery Ministers allocated funding to the International Marketing Alliances (IMAs) based on their respective share of the international visitor spend prior to COVID-19, as well as setting the REF criteria and determining that each IMA would develop an investment plan setting out how funding would be spent.

The Western North Island IMA consists of Taranaki, Whanganui, and Manawatu. Together the three regions were allocated $1 million over the four-year duration of the fund.

While the Western North island IMA has long worked together as a cohesive unit, supporting each other’s aspirations and collaborating where possible to drive visitation across the entire area, the regions are physically distant with significantly different event profiles which require diverse inputs. Event offerings within the IMA are therefore complementary rather than competitive and the decision was therefore made to distribute the fund to each region at the outset.

The regions worked together to determine the best way to apportion the allocated $1 million. While the funding was allocated to regional groupings based on their pre-COVID-19 international visitor numbers, the IMA chose to look at the respective regional contributions for major events. As predominantly domestic-driven destinations, the funding needed to be reflective of the local visitor economy and recognise the significant investments made into tourism and events by each region to date. The funding was therefore split as follows: Taranaki $425,000, Manawatu: $375,000, and Whanganui $200,000. Taranaki was deemed to be the lead entity in regard to reporting requirements with Brylee Flutey GM Destination as the contact person.

The three regions have focussed their funding towards key areas as follows:

With events already regarded as a visitation driver and key factor underpinning regional growth, Taranaki is primarily concentrating on event development, supercharging already successful events, and providing continued support for events heavily affected by COVID-19.

Manawatu’s focus is on building capability and capacity to deliver on existing strategies focusing on conference and business events and the secondary school sports sector while supercharging events that build on key regional strengths and developing one key iconic event for the region.

Whanganui will focus on supporting events that align with the strategic goals of driving economic impact and promoting Wanganui as a vibrant and progressive location. The region will do this by strengthening existing events that continue to have relevance and developing one new iconic event. Funding will be allocated primarily through a contestable fund.

Photo credit: Charlotte Curd