As the rest of New Zealand starts getting their firewood in for winter, Whakatāne is planning to gloat about how its warm summer sun just keeps on giving.

The new tongue-in-cheek campaign, launched today, generously offers Kiwis the chance to escape the chill that descends in other parts of the country at this time of year, to enjoy some borrowed hours of the never-ending sunshine in Whakatāne.

Whakatāne was officially crowned the Niwa Sunshine capital for 2020. Arguably, this makes Whakatāne the sunniest place in the world New Zealanders can travel to right now without having to quarantine. The campaign plays on this with messaging intended to make people smile and to highlight Whakatāne and the Eastern Bay of Plenty as a great holiday destination year-round.

“We wanted this campaign to feel cheeky and to be a little bit different in order to stand out in a busy domestic market,” says Whakatāne District Council Tourism and Events Manager Nicola Burgess. “We want to make a few waves and get Kiwis to realise the range of things to do here in Whakatāne – sunshine and all.”

Whakatāne has more than sunshine to boast about too, with Ōhope Beach recently voted New Zealand’s best beach in an NZ Herald reader poll.

“Many of the ‘best beach’ voters’ comments referred to Ōhope as having a touch of what a kiwi holiday used to be – safe swimming, uncrowded, with a laid-back vibe and plenty of activities on offer. This campaign captures that spirit, aligning with Whakatāne and the experience you get when visiting. We’re laid-back, fun and welcoming and don’t take things too seriously!” says Nicola. 

Launched today across a number of digital channels, radio and billboards in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North and Wellington, the campaign offers condolences to other centres at the end of their summer and promises to share the continuing summer vibe and sunshine in Whakatāne.

Whilst ultimately about the abundant sunshine, the campaign film features local actor Karla Lyford taking viewers around the many attractions in the Whakatāne District.

Most New Zealanders familiar with Whakatāne know it as the home of Whakaari/White Island.  However, Nicola says there’s much more on offer.

“Whakatāne has had a tough time over the past year or so. As a community we’ve come together to support each other and this campaign, in a way, signals a new beginning for our local tourism industry. We really are a hidden gem and this is our opportunity to shine a light on what’s on offer.”

A number of Whakatāne locals feature in the campaign film – including Whakatāne District Mayor Judy Turner – popping up in the background with cheeky comments about the abundant sunshine.

“All the locals featured in the campaign have given of their time freely and show the authentic happy-go-lucky Whakatāne spirit. Everyone was so keen to help out and showcase our beautiful destination,” says Nicola.

The campaign follows a bumper summer for the Whakatāne tourism sector, with accommodation at capacity and visitors from every region across New Zealand.

Local tourism operator Kenny McCracken of KG Kayaks says demand has been the same even without international visitors.

“We’ve seen a lot of new visitors here.  Freedom kayak hires have been popular and both the Ōhiwa and Moutohorā guided kayak tours have been in demand, despite the border being closed.”

Patrick O’Sullivan, General Manager of Ngāti Awa Tourism who run an on land Moutohorā guided tour, had similar feedback.

“Overall numbers have been up on previous years. We were able to offer daily tours between 26 December and 24 January but have now returned to four days per week.

“We have been delighted to see that kiwis are taking the opportunity to support the New Zealand tourism industry and explore their own backyard while borders are closed,” he says.

The retail and hospitality sectors reiterated these sentiments, with many reporting a ‘buzzing’ summer.

EPIC (Events, Promotion, Initiative, Community) Whakatāne Town Centre chairperson Warren Short says it has been an exceptional summer trading season for retailers.

“We’ve had an amazing amount of visitors coming to the region.”

Nicola Burgess says the goal for the ‘sunniest place in the world’ marketing campaign is to extend this busy summer vibe throughout the autumn.

“Autumn is a spectacular time of year for the eastern bay.  It’s the perfect time to visit without the summer crowds and a great escape for people in other parts of the country who aren’t so blessed with abundant sunshine,” she says.

“We anticipated that the COVID levels could change again while the campaign is running. For the current scenario, we’ve designed Auckland-specific messaging to be delivered while they’re in Level 3. We will welcome them with sun-filled, open arms when the time is right to safely travel again.  That is the beauty of digital and radio campaigns – they are flexible and responsive.”

The marketing campaign runs from 1 March through to the end of May.