Wanaka and Queenstown tourism bosses at odds

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Wanaka’s tourism boss is defending ordering Queenstown to “move over” as adventure capital, saying his marketing’s traditionally “cheeky”.

After an accolade in National Geographic magazine, Lake Wanaka Tourism boss James Helmore headlined a statement last week: “Move over Queenstown; New Zealand has a new ‘Adventure Capital’: Lake Wanaka!”

“Recognition as the adventure capital … is a fantastic tribute to the region, but one those in the know have always acknowledged,” it read.

It drew the ire of Destination Queenstown counterpart Graham Budd, who dubbed it “disappointing and very surprising to have our neighbours reference Queenstown in this way”.

Helmore, in defence, says he didn’t see it as bagging fellow tourist hotspot Queenstown.

“If we were going to bag Queenstown, there’d be specific statements that would focus on Queenstown, trying to associate negative attributes with it.

“The personality and identity around Wanaka, in marketing speak, is we’re a challenger brand – our voice is a little bit more irreverent, a little bit cheeky, a bit non-PC compared with a market leader like Queenstown,” he says.

Helmore adds nothing in “the body of his statement” mentioned Queenstown and he just repeated what National Geographic published in an “Ultimate Adventure Bucket List”.

Wanaka was the only NZ town to make it, after top American snowboarder Jeremy Jones called it the “adventure capital”. 

Helmore admits Budd wrote to him last week personally expressing disappointment – by Tuesday Helmore had yet to respond. 

Asked if he regretted the tone of the release and felt he should apologise, Helmore says: “I’ll have a discussion with him. He may have reacted in the heat of the moment as well, but I know he takes his role as Queenstown’s chief marketer very seriously. 

“I’ve seen him react in a similar vein to other comments made by regional tourism organisations – that’s his prerogative.”