Southland seeks boost from domestic dollar

TAKING A BREAK: Travellers Sion Jones and Sara Edwards, of Wales, at the Tuatara Cafe.
TAKING A BREAK: Travellers Sion Jones and Sara Edwards, of Wales, at the Tuatara Cafe.

Kiwis are shying away but international travellers are flocking to southern shores, a new report says.

The Venture Southland report shows international visitor numbers have jumped 11.5 per cent in the past year, with those visitors funnelling $184million into the Southern region.

However, domestic figures are not as buoyant - Kiwis have spent 3.1 per cent fewer nights in the south in the past year compared with the previous 12 months, and their total dollar spend has also dropped 4.5 per cent.

Venture Southland chief executive Paul Casson said the strength of the New Zealand dollar was contributing to the drop in domestic visitors as Kiwis were taking advantage of cheaper overseas holidays rather than travelling in their own country.

"A lot of people take off overseas without seeing their own backyard," Casson said.

Venture Southland would be focusing on an "on your doorstep" campaign to promote the South to the rest of New Zealand, he said.

"There's a lot of Southlanders who haven't been to Stewart Island," he said.

Domestic tourism had been dropping since 2010, the report says.

The demise of Stadium Southland the same year has been cited as one of the reasons behind the drop, while the Christchurch earthquakes had also contributed.

Lacking a venue had a significant impact on tourism in Southland, Casson said.

Venture Southland was working to bring more national conferences to Invercargill in 2015 but had to be more proactive in educating New Zealanders about travelling to Southland, he said.

Fiordland was being marketed to international tourists as a beautiful place to travel to, Casson said.

The Christchurch International Airport had regional photos from areas around the South Island, which include photos taken in Fiordland, he said.

"It's probably the most picturesque photo taken by tourists," he said.

Southland Motel Association president David O'Brien said the collapse of the stadium in 2010 had hurt business for motel owners.

He had noticed a decline in the number of corporate travellers.

"We're waiting for the great influx from the stadium now that it's reopened," he said.

Nationwide, domestic travel is down 4.6 per cent, but Fiordland, Central Otago, Queenstown, Wanaka and Dunedin had lower declines than other centres, the Venture report says.

Nationally, international visitors have increased 2.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Statistics New Zealand Commercial Accommodation Monitor figures, released this week, show Queenstown has recorded its highest ever guest nights for a 12-month period.

For the year ending June 2014, total Queenstown guest nights were up 9.8 per cent to 2,908,025.

The Southland Times