The research process
The 2017 programme is just the first step in what is envisaged to be at least a five-year research programme to help establish a timeline to identify key trends in tourism, at a time when New Zealand is undergoing fast and significant changes in the patterns of its tourism.
The first area in the Waikato region to be monitored is the coastal village of Raglan, where in summer the population swells to three times its usual size of 5,000 residents. Raglan is world-famous among surfers for having the best left-hand break in the southern hemisphere.
It is also known as a place for potters and artists, all of whom have found a home around a spectacular harbour in which sailors and paddlers might find themselves sharing the waters with dolphins and orca.
Raglan is known for being relaxed, laid-back, and offering a range of activities based around the beach, surfing, horse-riding, good food, and friendly people in a locale with a strong community spirit.
This spirit was demonstrated in 2001 when the community came together to create the Raglan Naturally plan; a vision of what they wanted Raglan to be - and just as important, what they did not want Raglan to be! This community document has become part of the Waikato District Council plan.
In many ways, Raglan represents a quintessential New Zealand experience. But the issue is how to retain that quality of life as New Zealand sustains its domestic tourism while attracting yet more international visitors.
In 2017 the research programme concentrated on monitoring residents and visitors, but over the coming years it will also concentrate on other environmental and social issues.
We would like to acknowledge the support of the Hamilton-Waikato Regional Tourism Organisation, the Raglan Chamber of Commerce, the Waikato District Council, and many other individuals who have given their time and knowledge.
In the summer of 2016/17 a total of 332 residents/households were interviewed and 430 visitors as part of the second stage of a research project using structured questionnaires. An initial step in the work was based around a series of indepth interviews as to what people considered were the implications of tourism on the community.
The work undertaken in 2000 that led to the 'Raglan Naturally' documentation that was based on community action was found to still be highly relevant, but there is a recognition that new infrastructure will be required and hence paid for. But overwhelmingly both residents and visitors recognise the strong community spirit of Raglan - and the role of local ownership of retail and accommodation outlets as providing a sense of place that differs from others that are charactersied by uniform presence of international brand names. Simply put - by being local in focus Raglan is different and fully uses its local seascape as a plce for relaxation (and good surfing). It has also been suggested that more could be made of Raglan's local Maori traditions even while the natural landscape still creates advantages in developing outdoor experiences such as in the new cycle way.
In the summer of 2017/18 our attention will turn to obtaining data relating to the informal accommodation sector and additionally aspects of waste management.
Reports are being written and will become available from 2018 onward.