Tour operators hopeful of visitor increase
Tourism numbers in the Mackenzie district continue to crawl back to previous peaks, but operators are hopeful of more light at the end of the tunnel.
Statistics New Zealand's latest figures reveal that for the quarter ending March, the district recorded just more than 160,000 visitors, about 7 per cent down on the equivalent quarter last year.
Monthly guest nights for January to May this year have recorded between 4 to 10 per cent drops on the same period last year.
However, many of the district's tourism operators feel the worst of the decline is over, as the Christchurch market becomes more stable.
Hermitage Hotel general manager Nigel Harper said the earthquake had still affected the domestic market, but he was noticing a rise in the South Asian market.
"We've spent a lot of time and money trying to attract that market to Aoraki-Mt Cook," he said.
"The numbers are looking like they will improve as we head into next summer, but international airfares into New Zealand will need to come back down again to see a real increase."
Mr Harper said although it was still a difficult time for the tourism industry, there were more signs of life. In the Mackenzie, initiatives such as the dark sky reserve and the Alps to Ocean cycleway would attract more people to the district.
"Aoraki-Mt Cook is in the area of the dark sky reserve, so that can only be good news for the Hermitage too," he said.
Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park owner-operator Pete Speedy said the recent closure of the town's i-Site meant business might have to work together to find a solution but overall the market was "cautiously optimistic".
"The months of May and June tend to be quiet, as summer is over, and you don't have the school holidays, but the last couple of weeks have been fantastic," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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