Visitor numbers rising

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 12:33 05/02/2014
Tourists
Zhu Yao, of China, skydiving with NZONE above Lake Wakatipu. She turned up in her wedding dress and her new husband in his tuxedo to skydive and celebrate the Chinese New Year.

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Resort business is a fickle beast but patchy weather has failed to dampen trade for hoteliers, pubs and many of Queenstown's core tourism activities.

Restaurateurs, accommodation industry representatives and adventure tourism firms are all brimming with a quiet confidence that summer, despite the changeable weather, is shaping up to be economically solid.

Tourism Industry Association Queenstown hotels regional chair Penny Clark said she was confident managers around the resort all had "smiles on the dials" after a strong January.

February pre-bookings were also looking healthy and there was every indication the chilling effect of the global financial crisis was starting to wane.

"I don't think the weather has impacted on the international visitors, I think January is possibly looking like it's one of the better [months] we have had in a long time. We have probably got a good section [of visitors] from everywhere but I think the international side has picked up."

Ms Clark, who runs the Goldridge Resort, said there was an increase in visitors from western Europe.

"They are having a horrible winter over there and I think the global financial drama meltdown is starting to ease off."

Chinese New Year was expected to bolster visitor numbers this month and pre-bookings for February were strong.

Businesses reliant on weather, such as scenic flight firms and skydiving companies, were left with no choice but to call "weather days" during early summer.

Skyline general manager Lyndon Thomas said the company was pleased with summer business considering the weather so far. Pre-bookings for February were strong due to Chinese New Year.

"It hasn't had a huge impact as we can still operate in most inclement weather conditions. It has been encouraging to see guests from the USA and Europe returning. The Southeast Asian and Chinese markets have performed well."

Real Journeys' chief executive Richard Lauder said business was good and while not at the levels of before the global financial crisis this last year was better than the previous two years.

The TSS Earnslaw, Walter Peak, Milford and Doubtful Sound trips were all performing well and there was a shift in some markets. Pre-bookings this month were up compared with last February.

The patchy early summer weather had an impact on aviation operations to Milford although wet weather did not deter visitors overall.

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"We continue to see growth out of China and interestingly in the developing FIT [free independent tourist] market as well. American numbers are starting to rebound which is very encouraging and our South Asian visitors, especially from Singapore, are starting to make an impact."

Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said the international market was growing after more services were added although a Jetstar decision to stop Wellington and Christchurch services hit the domestic business.

"We have seen declining domestic volumes but those volumes could have been worse.

"We have seen real growth from Brisbane."

Passenger numbers at Queenstown Airport increased by 5.1 per cent for the 12 months to December compared with 2012.

A total of 1,215,526 domestic and international passengers passed through the airport terminal compared with 1,156,250 in 2012.

- The Mirror

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