The second Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey, which is set to spark into international action on April 7, will be bringing more than just the world’s top women players to Hawke’s Bay – it is also shaping as a major bonus for tourism in the region.

“This is a very special event and a huge opportunity for Hawke’s Bay tourism,” Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said.

“The long-term objective is not just to create a fantastic event but also to allow Hawke’s Bay to be showcased in so many countries.”

One of the driving forces behind attracting international hockey to the Bay, Bruce McTaggart, agreed, saying in the wake of the inaugural event last year the international sides wanted to return, and last year’s six top sides had expanded to eight.

“All the players and officials go back home and they become ambassadors for New Zealand – so the benefits are very much there.”

This year’s festival, which is the second in a 10-year staging contract formed with Hockey New Zealand, had already created a significant boost for the accommodation and hospitality industry before a ball had even been struck.

Mr McTaggart said about 2600 room nights in Napier and Hastings had already been booked. “It is very exciting and we hope to start a trend that will only continue to grow.”

He said there were so many aspects to getting the festival, which was already one of the most extensive in the world, organised and said everyone involved “along the line” could “pat themselves on the back”.

The festival was been steered by the Hawke’s Bay Sports Events and Education Consultants, which is comprised of local individuals and businesses, Hawke’s Bay Hockey, Sport Hawke’s Bay and Hockey New Zealand, and 80 games will be played over 13 days at the regional Sports Park in Hastings and the Park Island hockey facilities in Napier.

Already confirmed are Australia, who ranked number two in the world, Argentina, China, the US, Korea, Japan and the New Zealand Black Sticks. One more team is to announced soon. There will also be men’s and women’s teams from Hong Kong and they will play in the Affiliates section of the festival against Hawke’s Bay men’s and women’s representative teams as well as New Zealand Maori, New Zealand Indian, New Zealand Seniors and New Zealand Universities.

The festival will also feature an invitational Under-17 secondary schoolgirls’ competition which will include four local schools – Iona College, Havelock North High School, Taradale High School and Woodford House.

The chief executive officer of Hockey New Zealand Malcolm Harris said it “cherished” the partnership it had with the local organisations.

“Here we have an event which can attract eight of the top 10 women’s teams in the world and that is pretty exciting – it is great for everyone.”

Events director Dave Nancarrow said he really had only one thing to add to the wish list – that good weather greeted the festival.

Content supplied by Hawke’s Bay Today. © Copyright 2015, APN New Zealand Limited