The Christmas holidays are nearly upon us, and for those of us who are lucky enough to live here, we know that this brings traffic and lots of visitors. I hear on quite a regular basis the derogatory term Jafa used, and often it is said that we don’t want them here. “Why don’t they stay home? They just clog up our roads.”
What we must realise, though, is that for a lot of our tourism and hospitality businesses, these people from Auckland are the very customers that will help their business survive, and this is especially true after the year that we have just had.
I owned a local motel many years ago, and I know that without that influx of visitors over the summer period, when we could charge premium rates, we would not have survived. Yes, it does mean a lot more work and longer hours, but sometimes it is the difference between closing the doors or surviving for another year.
We need to somehow change our mindset about the influx of visitors and welcome them to our town and our region. Don’t scare them away with stories about the perils of Hill Street or the time they may have to wait in traffic. Instead let’s blow them away with the warmth of our welcome and the beauty of where we live.
Another thought for local businesses as we start to ramp up towards Christmas: If the front of your business or shop has got a little bit overgrown with a few weeds or needs a little paint, and you don’t have time to do it, then remember there will be a few college students who might be looking for a little extra cash. That little bit of smartening up might really help in making your business stand out.
We have so many great features and attractions around this area, so when you are looking to promote your business online, mention some of these attractions in your content. This has been a tough year and for us, your local business association, it has thrown some challenges our way as well. While we couldn’t put in place events or promotions for our members to attend, we were still out there advocating on behalf of the town. This included speaking up on infrastructure issues like Hill Street. We are making progress on these things, some of which will become clearer early next year.
A huge thanks to all the people in Warkworth who have supported me and the business association this year. That support is not taken for granted. Again, the work that we do is not just me but also my wonderful team – Lauren, my marketing and comms wizard, and Alison, who, with her team of amazing volunteers, runs the Information Centre. Thanks also to the committee of One Mahurangi who have led us and supported us throughout the year.
We haven’t managed to do much this year event-wise, but we did get the Mahurangi Winter Festival of Lights across the line, and it was probably the biggest event in Warkworth this year. A massive thank you to all of the team on the festival committee. There were so many hours put in that no one sees, but I know that it is appreciated by the thousands of families who came out and enjoyed all the events.
From our team to your family, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year – may it be a better one than 2021. Now, let’s welcome all those Jafas back to our region.