Visitors flocking back to the region

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 12:58 13/06/2014

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Nelson is back on the itinerary, with latest figures showing both international and domestic visits have increased.

"We had a great month and now have had 14 consecutive months of growth from international visitors," said Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene following the release of the commercial accommodation monitor showing guest nights for April.

Compared with the previous April, guest nights soared 19.3 per cent to 101,469. Internationals rose 8.4 per cent to nearly 40,000 and domestic were up 27 to 61,631.

Jill Anderson, who has been running Happy Valley Adventures for 20 years, said this season had been better after some tough years.

"It's definitely improved from previous years. It had been tough for everybody, especially with Christchurch going down. The economy is so much more positive and people are feeling like spending."

They offer quad bike tours, horse treks, a flying fox and paintball. About 40 per cent of their business is international visitors, with many from Australia. "With the Australian economy down, which is quite a strong market for us, I wondering what's going to happen; it could have an impact," she said.

Keene said across the country a shift in the Australian market had been noticed over the past four months as Australians had hunkered down, but it was expected to pick up as the impact on the exchange rate made it less expensive for them to travel.

Some of the campaign work by Tourism NZ was also beginning to get traction.

Feedback from most of the industry was it has been a much brighter season and the best in the past three years, said Keene.

The trend through to March had shown international visits up but domestic down. Significantly, for the year ended April compared with the previous year, international guest nights have risen 8.7 per cent to 450,491 and domestic were also up, rising 1.9 per cent to 790,387.

"We're back in the positive for international and domestic which is great," said Keene.

However, Nelson Segway Tours operator Hugh Briggs found this year's tourism season disappointing, and worse than last year.

"There weren't enough visitors coming to Nelson, it was too cold and the tourism season too short," he said.

He would concentrate on operating the summer season from Labour Weekend to Easter and by special request over winter such as for corporate events.

His business has been running for three years. "The first season was okay, the second better and this one slightly down," he said.

He found the outdoor activity was affected by bad weather over the peak Christmas holidays when he lost bookings, and later, windy weather.

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He also believed the New Zealand dollar was too high and was deterring tourists.

"We need a few ‘wows' to bring people here over winter."

Keene said Nelson Tasman Tourism was co-ordinating the promotion of three events to be held on July 11 to 13 - the Nelson Winter Music Festival, Art Expo and Light Nelson festival.

The campaign included prizes to come to Nelson. "We need to grow and develop events and this is a good starting point."

Kaye Hill, who runs electric bicycle rental Cyclelogical, believes cheaper airfares into Nelson would help the tourism industry. "Cheaper domestic airfares, and everybody would notice a difference," she said.

She has run her Nelson business since 2011 and described this year's season as average. The bulk of her customers are from around New Zealand, many of them hiring the bikes to try them before buying.

Keene said NTT had been working with Air New Zealand and was beginning to see the results of that.

"Air fares do affect the motivation to travel, but there are some great savings. There are good fares on Grabaseat and 24-hour sales. If you have some flexibility you can reap the rewards of cheaper fares."

The increase in tourists reflected the positive work NTT was doing and a return of visitors from traditional markets such as Britain, Europe and the United States, and more Chinese independent travellers, she said.

BY THE NUMBERS

Guest nights in Nelson Tasman, year to April compared with previous year:

Up 4.2 per cent to 1.24 million

International up 8.7 per cent to 450,491

Domestic up 1.9 per cent to 790,387.

Source: Commercial accommodation monitor

- The Nelson Mail

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