Business community shares desire to see vibrancy

Results of the March 2024 Rotorua Business Pulse Report were presented on Wednesday morning. Photo / Laura Smith.

“Improving”, “potential”, “stagnant”, and “beautiful” are how some describe Rotorua in one word. The city’s tourism organisation calls it “kick-ass”.

The sentiments were shared as part of the RotoruaNZ and Rotorua Business Chamber’s business pulse survey results, which RotoruaNZ chief executive Andrew Wilson presented on Wednesday morning.

There were 80 survey respondents and the tourism industry made up 34 per cent of these. Directors, owners and managers made up 91 per cent of respondents, and responses were collected from March 14 to April 12.

This was down from 108 in the October survey which Wilson attributed to several surveys running at once.

Wilson said 23.1 per cent wanted city vision, vibrancy, and investment.

Anonymised survey comments included, “setting a new vision for the city which builds off the investment in public infrastructure and gives confidence to the private sector/developers”, and “creating a vibrant city centre and getting rid of beggars and intimidating individuals”.

Some wanted Rotoua Lakes Council to develop a “positive” long-term plan, while others wanted investment in the city.

About 20.5 per cent wanted a focus on rebuilding reputation, with one wanting Rotorua to regain “the city’s image as a top tourism destination”.

“[Address] the reputational damage caused by the issues around social housing.”

Wilson said work was in the pipeline to do just that, such as its to-be-launched Mai Rotorua initiative.

RotoruaNZ chief executive Andrew Wilson speaks on the March 2024 business survey. Photo / Laura Smith.

“How do we get our community and the rest of the country to understand how kick-ass Rotorua is?”

Wilson also made a plea to the business community who were not using AI.

“My suggestion is, if you aren’t, get started. Don’t get left behind.”

He called it an “incredible toolset” and productivity tool that would not replace jobs.

“Please, please, please, do take the time to investigate how it can add value to your business.”

The feeling in the business community

Wilson provided an overview of the findings, which included how the survey was off the back of a strong summer in the tourism sector.

North American visitors were choosing Rotorua as their holiday destination but “under the lid”, there was some work to do in bringing up numbers of other markets such as China.

Flight capacity had impacted numbers but Wilson said this was improving.

Lower visitor numbers from Australia were a nationwide issue, he said.

Overall, business confidence was positive and improved from a year ago, while the next year looked positive too.

Inflation continued to be a challenge but business concern over it had decreased.

Profitability expectations were positive but confidence in the volume of business activity and staff employed declined.

The full results are on the RotoruaNZ website.

Economic overview - doing the hard yards

Westpac industry economist Paul Clark spoke at the survey results presentation, speaking to its economic overview for May, released the same morning.

“We’ve called it, ‘doing the hard yards’, because we’ve done a lot of yards already.”

Westpac New Zealand industry economist Paul Clark. Photo / Laura Smith.

Included in his speech was how there had been a “significant rebalancing of the economy”. Demand had fallen, supply was being adjusted.

It had been “tough times” through a double-dip recession, he said. Economic growth stalled over the past year, and GDP was expected to grow by 0.7 per cent over 2024.

“Hardly stellar. But still, it’s growth.”

High interest rates were constraining that growth, as were tight financial conditions and weak export market conditions.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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