Hopes for upturn in tourism
Tourism numbers in the Mackenzie continue to struggle in the wake of upheavals, but there is some sign of growth on the horizon.
Statistics New Zealand's latest accommodation survey reveals that for the year ending August 2012, the district recorded slightly more than 426,000 guest nights, or nearly a 9.6 per cent drop on the same period last year.
However, a breakdown of monthly figures showed some growth, with this year's June to August period stronger than last year's.
Tekapo Springs general manager Cathy Hemsworth said there had been significant disruption in the region's tourism sector over the last two years, particularly the council's decision to can its tourism trust.
"There are a small number of key businesses in the Mackenzie who individually invest more funds in marketing and promotion than what was allocated to the now defunct [tourism trust] annually," she said.
"It is this financial commitment by the bigger players that continues to drive the return for many of the smaller operators."
Ms Hemsworth said Tekapo Springs had experienced solid growth for the April to September period.
"We are tracking at about 10-12 per cent ahead of the same period for 2011. The bottom line is we have ramped up our visibility and advertising in key markets such as Christchurch and across the Timaru and Mackenzie district," she said.
Hermitage Hotel general manager Nigel Harper said it had also experienced more than double-digit growth over the last year. "When you've got a great product like ours, you have to sell it. There's no use relying on others," he said.
"We're strongly targeting our key markets. International airfares (to New Zealand) are still way too high, but that means we have to work harder."
Mr Harper said the high New Zealand dollar had not affected its business.
"The key is to add value. We offer a range of experiences such as the Glacier Explorers, as well as great accommodation and the scenery of Aoraki-Mt Cook," he said.
The Mackenzie District Council has outsourced its tourism and promotion to Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) until June next year.
CCT chief executive Tim Hunter said the Christchurch earthquakes were still having an effect on numbers, but there had been, conversely, an increase in domestic tourism. "We're confident the growth will get back to what it was, particularly with initiatives such as the Aoraki-Mt Cook starlight reserve."
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