Big events in city boost accommodation sector

The rugby sevens, this weekend's Homegrown Festival and more corporate conferences are helping Wellington's accommodation sector recoup on a quiet couple of months.

Statistics New Zealand yesterday said nationally there was a 0.2 per cent drop in guest nights for December, after a 1.7 per cent rise the month before.

The number of nights spent at hotels, motels, backpacker accommodation and holiday parks rose 0.4 per cent in the North Island, but dipped 1.2 per cent in the South Island.

In Wellington, guest nights in December were down 0.8 per cent from November, and 2.6 per cent less than the same month a year earlier.

Comfort and Quality Hotels general manager Olivier Lacoua said his hotel had experienced a slowdown in December, at least when compared with last year's "exceptional" summer. "For my hotel it looks like people didn't travel as much. But, we had an increase of international people."

Statistics NZ industry and labour statistics manager Blair Cardno said the trend for guest nights was mostly rising, despite December's dip. "These rises are helped by record numbers of international visitors."

In the December 2013 year, tourist arrivals passed the 2.7 million mark for the first time, increasing 6 per cent from the previous year.

But a total of 221,000 Kiwis took an overseas trip in December last year, more than ever before in the festive month, up 2 per cent from December 2012.

The figures showed international guest nights rose 0.5 per cent in December, while domestic guest nights fell 0.8 per cent.

Lacoua was unsure why more international guests were arriving, but said February was "going to be huge", following a slow January. Last weekend's sevens, this Saturday's Homegrown festival and an increasing number of corporate conferences ensured the hotel would have a strong finish to its financial year.

Last year about 17,000 fans attended Homegrown, on Wellington's waterfront.

An influx of cricket fans for the Black Caps' test match against India, starting tomorrow, was less apparent.

"We've been full since last weekend until next weekend, every night," Lacoua said. "You can't find too many rooms at the moment."

Statistics NZ said the overall trend for guest nights was at a record high, and continued to climb. Overall guest nights were 3.3 per cent higher in December 2013 than for the same month a year earlier.

James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor general manager Steve Martin said both December and January had been slightly down, compared with the previous year, but February was proving to be a "cracker" month.

"I guess even though we were down a little bit last month I think this month we are going to more than recoup that."