Parks brace for influx of campers

The Nelson region's campgrounds are bracing themselves for the annual holiday influx, with high hopes for a summer holiday season unaffected by earthquakes and floods, as it was last year.

Campgrounds across the region are not yet full, but managers say the area will be heaving by Boxing Day.

Tahuna Beach Holiday Park supervisor Valda Holland said bookings were around the level of previous summers, and she was hoping for a big season.

"We've still got a few spaces available. I'm sure if the weather continues like this nice, sunny weather, we hope more people will come."

The campground was mainly open to families, and there was a good run of entertainment planned, she said. On January 8, it was holding a "garden gnome party", with families able to attend workshops earlier in the week to decorate their gnomes.

Brook Valley Holiday Park manager Harold Osborne said bookings were looking pretty good, but it was early days yet.

"Bookings are quite late. A lot are still coming through now."

The guests were a mix of young people and families, and they were mostly left to their own devices, he said.

He hoped that numbers would be on a par with previous years, but thought the Christchurch earthquake and the recession were still having an effect on the tourism sector.

Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park manager Steve Edwards said his campground was about half full, and he anticipated a rush at the usual time, around Boxing Day.

From that date onwards, the campground was full, and he was already turning away 25 to 30 inquiries a day.

With a lot of Christchurch families beginning to rebuild their homes following the 2011 earthquake, many were staying at home this year, so it was a different crowd to previous summers, he said.

Totaranui Campground managers Pam and Hugh Mytton said numbers were good, and there was a positive vibe there.

They were expecting about 550 campers by Christmas Day, and more than 1000 in the coming weeks.

Mrs Mytton said a lot of people who were unable to get to the campground last year because of the December floods had returned, and there was a lot of catching up with old friends.

Mr Mytton said the access road had been repaired, and regular campers had praised it as being in the best shape they had ever seen. The campground's three new ablution blocks had also been welcomed.

Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said she was quietly optimistic about the season, a sentiment she said was shared by most tourism providers around the country.

She was expecting more visitors to the region than last summer, which suffered as a result of the December floods and the Rugby World Cup.

The region had a few new features that would hopefully help to attract people, such as the Great Taste Trail cycleway and the return of cruise ship visits. Its award-winning wineries and status in the craft beer scene would also help, she said.

The Nelson region could also expect a small piece of the "Tolkien tourism" scene, with fans of The Hobbit movie beginning to make their way here.

Matamata's Hobbiton Movie Set Tours was forecasting 150,000 visitors in this financial year, and had already seen about 80,000. This would increase in subsequent years, she said.

"Even if we picked up 10 per cent of that 150,000, it means people will come to Nelson and put us on the map for Middle-earth."

Such visitors would be expected to stay up to two nights each and spend about $200.

The Nelson Mail