Visitor numbers drop

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 12/02/2013

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A slower than expected tourist season has claimed a visiting summer attraction, and has puzzled other operators.

The temporary ice-skating rink set up at Tahunanui for the first time this summer will not return after a "slow season" left parent company Ice World out of pocket.

"I couldn't afford to come back next year, to be honest," Ice World director Gareth Webber said.

"We only did about one-third of what we expected."

He said local tourism providers he talked with over summer agreed it had been a "slow season", but were unsure why.

Ice World also operated a temporary rink in Tauranga, which Mr Webber said was more profitable than the Tahunanui venture.

The ice had remained on the turf at Tahunanui two weeks longer than expected, but that was not because of hot demand, Mr Webber said.

"The extra couple of weeks was just to recuperate what we lost."

He said he had been "racking his brain" to figure out why there were fewer skaters than anticipated, calling that the "million dollar question".

It was a busy start to summer, but the retail rush and flood of tourists have subsided considerably, according to a local motelier.

The New Zealand Motel Association's Nelson branch administration officer, John Gilbertson, said it was difficult to give an accurate assessment until statistics were compiled after the summer rush, but he was sure there was a gap in the local tourism market. "It was all on at the start [of the busy summer period] then it slowed up considerably."

"February is traditionally our busiest month, and things are starting to pick up a bit again.

" . . . we in the industry have our suspicions that the Canterbury market is fairly soft at the moment as people plan out what they are doing with their EQC payments and housing things."

Mr Gilbertson said the number of Cantabrians staying in Nelson was hard to quantify as many stayed with friends or family, or at holiday parks, or with other, non-registered providers.

However, he believed Nelson received fewer visitors from Christchurch this summer.

"We are starting each day with more rooms available than this time last year," he said.

"At the start of each day there are a considerable number of rooms not booked.

"We are all wondering which people are missing and we have an idea that those people are from Canterbury."

Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said anecdotal feedback from about 20 major tourism operators suggested summer 2012/13 had been busier than last season, despite year-to-date spending and foot traffic statistics indicating fewer visitors to the region.

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"Visitors are very discerning with purchases due to the New Zealand dollar not giving them as much spend as previous years. The drop in numbers is due to the UK, Germany, Europe, USA and Australia markets still feeling the impact of the global financial crisis. The next two months I am cautiously optimistic the season will have a steady run through to Easter," she said.

WHAT THE FIGURES SHOW

Accommodation figures show: Over the past 12 months, a 5.7 per cent decline in total guest nights spent in Nelson, with 3.5 per cent domestic and 9.5 per cent fewer international guest nights compared to the previous year. Local i-SITE statistics show Nelson foot traffic was down during January by 7 per cent, Golden Bay by 3.4 per cent, Murchison by 7per cent and Motueka tracking a similar result. Source: Nelson Tasman Tourism. Paymark figures show total value of spending in Nelson region during January was up 3.7 per cent on last year, but that was 1.4 per cent below the national growth rate of 5.1 per cent.

- The Nelson Mail

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