Tourism a keystone of region's economy
Tourism contributes just over half a billion dollars a year to the Nelson region's economy, the third-highest regional spend in the South Island, new figures show.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's recently launched Regional Tourism Estimates confirm that the industry is one of the region's major economic drivers, with benefits to other industries as well.
The figures estimate that visitors spent $520 million here in 2012 - $383m from domestic visitors and $137m from international visitors.
Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said this put the region behind only Christchurch and Queenstown in the South Island.
The estimates use data from Regional Tourism Indicators, Statistics New Zealand's Tourism Satellite Account and the Ministry's International Visitor Survey. The ministry rates the data as "very reliable".
In previous years, using different methodologies, the visitor spend was estimated at $349.5m. Ms Keene said that number came from a different economic model, and the new figures were more accurate.
The previous estimates had always seemed a bit low, she said.
"When I first came three years ago, I thought, ‘Gosh, that seemed lower than I was expecting'."
While it was not surprising to see Nelson as the third-ranked destination in the South Island, it was neat to have it "in nuts and bolts", she said.
Also encouraging was evidence which showed that the tourism industry led to more spending in other sectors, especially retail, Ms Keene said.
Tourism provided more than 3000 jobs across a wide range of skill levels in the region, and indirectly supported businesses across the trades and professional services.
For every dollar visitors spent on their accommodation, they spent $2-$3 in shops, cafes and restaurants or on transport, she said.
The figures showed that more was spent in Nelson city compared to Tasman district. Ms Keene said this was mostly because more people stayed in the city, and so were likely to spend money in nearby shops, cafes, restaurants and supermarkets.
Without the retail spending figure, the figures were more balanced between both areas.
"To see the high percentage of that spend in the retail sector gives us confidence . . . that it's not just the tourism operators that benefit."
Forward bookings for the 2013-14 summer season were looking positive, she said.
From an international perspective, all the major offshore wholesalers, inbound tour wholesalers and New Zealand operators were saying that visitor markets had turned towards the positive, particularly the United States, Japan and Europe.
Backpacker accommodation and other hostels did not typically receive forward bookings, as they catered to younger travellers who were less likely to plan ahead, she said.
Wilsons Abel Tasman chief executive Darryl Wilson said forward bookings were stronger than for the same month last year, and website visits were up about 20 per cent.
"All in all, our key markets are looking like they're looking at us, which is always nice in the scheme of things."
He believed that the increase in bookings was linked to consumer confidence, with people planning holidays when things appeared to be getting better, which they were at the moment.
The season would probably start a little later, and last until autumn, he said.
"A lot of people have been wanting to come and do some of the iconic holidays of New Zealand and have been waiting for the right time, and after three or four years maybe they're thinking now's as right as it's going to be."
New Zealand Motel Association Nelson branch administration officer John Gilbertson said that although the sector was optimistic, it was too early to tell what would happen.
"There's a whole lot of water to pass under the bridge between now and the season."
He agreed with the assessment of the widespread economic impact of the tourism industry, saying there were plenty of industries that supported it.
- © Fairfax NZ News