Tourist sector confident of strong summer season

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 13:00 19/12/2013

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Tourism operators have their fingers crossed for good holiday weather as they look forward to what looks like one of the Nelson Tasman region's busiest summers for a few years.

Many have just enjoyed a 15 to 20 per cent boost in November sales and are fully booked over the peak Christmas-New Year period.

Brent Clarke of Pohara Top Ten Holiday Park said the camp still had a few sites and accommodation units available but it was shaping up to be a good season.

"It'll be better than the last two years."

Bookings had been affected over recent years by the Christchurch earthquakes, Golden Bay's floods, the global financial meltdown and the lack of scallops in Golden Bay.

The strong New Zealand dollar had hit international tourist numbers, but holidaymakers from the region and Christchurch were filling the gap.

Valda Holland of Tahuna Beach Holiday Park said they had seen a lot of domestic and overseas visitors over recent weeks and there were few spare sites still available through till early January.

The biggest factor for the region was the weather. She had her fingers crossed for fine summer skies.

Pelorus Bridge Cafe and Camping Ground caretaker Nobby Neal said good numbers of international travellers, particularly from France, had boosted their November guest nights by 15 to 20 per cent.

The recent run of summer storms across the region had made visitors wary of booking too far in advance, he said.

Abel Tasman National Park's huts and campgrounds are already booked out for January and running close to capacity leading into Christmas.

Department of Conservation Nelson partnerships manager Martin Rodd said this summer was "looking like a pretty amazing season." Some of the park's campgrounds had limited capacity from mid-January but those who wanted to stay on the golden coastline should book now, he said.

Nelson Lakes National Park had only limited capacity in its West Bay camp leading into and during January. The park's Kerr Bay camp was booked solid to mid-January, Mr Rodd said.

There was still space in the Heaphy Track's huts for those who wanted to spend the festive season in the backcountry.

Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles director Keith Knapp said it had just had its best November ever and its forward bookings were up on previous years. "We are hoping the weather will treat us right and we will have a good season."

Mapua Leisure Park manager June Dunn said only a few unpowered spaces were still available towards the end of the first week in January.

"This year people are starting to come in earlier - from anytime now and quite a lot are starting from December 23.."

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Nelson-Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said operators were optimistic about this summer's season on the back of improving international markets - particularly the UK.

- The Nelson Mail

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