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More tourists visit under the radar

NEW figures suggest tourists spent $7.8 million here last month and the regional tourism organisation says it knows the area is attracting twice the number of people than previously thought.

Tourism Eastland chief executive Stuart Perry said along with 14 other RTOs, Tourism Eastland had contracted the Spark subsidiary Qrious to provide data taken from cellphone towers, which was able to track SIM cards as they passed from one to another.

Mr Perry said that would mean it was possible to see how long people stayed in the region.

“One of the things we are trying to do is measure visitor numbers coming in to our region, track where they are coming from and compare ourselves to similar regions elsewhere in the country," he said.

Previously, Statistics New Zealand’s commercial accommodation monitor, a voluntary survey that excluded bed and breakfast accommodation, had shown visitors spent, on average, 7000 nights on accommodation here. But data from Qrious showed Bay of Plenty residentsalso made 7900 day trips to Gisborne each month.

Tourism Eastland paid $6000 a year as part of a shared agreement with other RTOs. Mr Perry pointed out while the data was able to pinpoint SIM cards, “it is not Big Brother”.

No other data was taken from phones. All that could be shown was the “general” location of SIM cards to corresponding cell towers and where the SIM card had been the previous day.

“It cannot tell to whom that SIM card belongs”.

It would also be useful to show how many people from Wellington were flying to Gisborne in the new larger aircraft.

“We will be able to see if there is an upturn in passenger numbers and how long they come for. It’s quite exciting stuff.”

Meanwhile, the latest monthly regional tourism estimates released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), show visitors spent $7.8 million here last month, the vast majority of that in the retail sector.

MBIE manager of sector trends Peter Ellis said that meant the tourism spend for Gisborne was estimated to be $127 million for the year to June 2016, up 1 percent compared with the year to June 2015.

Of the total spend, international visitors spent $23 million (up 11 percent compared with the year to June 2015), and domestic tourists spent $103 million (down 1 percent) in that period.

“When it comes to monthly expenditure, tourism spend in Gisborne for the month of June 2016 is up 14 percent compared with the month of June 2015.”

GISBORNE-BOUND: More than twice as many visitors as we thought.