Vacationers give West Coast businesses a welcome boost

Domestic tourists have filled the cafes, accommodations and roads of the west coast from Karamea to Haast – and businesses love it.

Karamea Information Center chief information officer Liz Volckman said travelers and families, mostly from the South Island’s east coast, Nelson / Tasman and Christchurch, started arriving after Christmas.

“We are extremely busy until after New Years, with a lot of people looking for a place to stay with a lot of our accommodations fully booked,” she said last week.

“We’re not as busy as last year when a lot of people were traveling here for the first time. Now the families are coming back.”

She estimated the peak would last until the end of this week, as most people were due to return to work on January 10.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said last week the district was teeming with cars full of families towing trailers and boats, or carrying bikes.

“The Reefton Trots are on, there’s a huge crowd and it’s a beautiful day. We got to Broadway an hour before the races and there were people in the street.

“On the Buller Gorge there were caravans and boats and I heard there were floods of caravans heading north towards Karamea. Businesses need them so that everyone keep on going.”

More tourists have walked the streets of Hokitika over the past fifteen weeks and, although the numbers are not comparable to pre-Covid, visits and sales have increased at some businesses.

Monique Kingipoiti, of Possum People, said the company has seen a 25% increase in sales, although its mainstay remains online sales.

Kevin Stevenson, of Hokitika Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels, said the operation was in full swing with domestic tourists.

“The coming month is pretty busy and the phone rings constantly. There haven’t been a lot of Aucklanders, but there are quite a few from the North Island and a lot from the South.”

Mr Stevenson said units at the camp are fully booked and only a few power sites and tent sites remain over the next few days.

Glacier Country Tourism chairman Rob Jewell said he was surprised at the number of domestic visitors who were traveling, staying and spending.

While away from pre-Covid levels, the blessing of the holidays was a boost for Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.

“Certainly this holiday period is going very well. “

Holidaymakers had traveled to Haast where Tania Frisby, of the town’s promotion association, said accommodation bookings were good, but tended to decline after January 10.

“We’re doing fine. There are a lot of campers around the west coast and some are staying two or three days.

“Families take nature walks and trips – it’s a boost for our tourism businesses.

“We will take what we have.”

The southernmost town on the coast greeted the New Year with beach bonfires and a band at the Hard Antler Bar.

– Hélène Murdoch


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