Mackenzie back on Asian tourism map

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
margaret munro
SUPPLIED
EARTH & SKY GENERAL MANAGER: Margaret Munro

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Tourism numbers in the Mackenzie are slowly climbing back towards their pre-earthquakes peak.

The latest Statistics New Zealand accommodation survey revealed that the district recorded just under 133,000 guest nights for the four-month period ending December 2012, about 16 per cent higher than the same period in 2011, and not far behind the pre-2010 peak.

The district's tourism industry has undergone multiple upheavals in the last 18 months, from the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes to the Mackenzie District Council's decision to disband its tourism trust.

The council recently received a report on tourism funding, proposing it should procure marketing services, rather than have a stand-alone body.

Earth & Sky general manager Margaret Munro said Asian tourists had returned, while domestic numbers were also increasing.

"It's been a really busy period for us. We're nearly 20 per cent up on the same period last year," she said.

"The real mover is in the Chinese market. We're seeing several tour groups coming through here over the summer."

Mrs Munro said the challenge was to find more accommodation to satisfy the growing market.

"It would be great if another major developer arrived in the district. Another hotel complex would certainly fill the need," she said.

"If the council can support a developer in some way, that would be great."

Mrs Munro said interest in the Mackenzie district's night sky remained high since the International Dark Sky Association proclaimed it a heritage reserve.

There were further plans for a dark sky festival scheduled later this year.

Meanwhile, many holiday parks have reported a bumper summer, with Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park being close to its 2000 capacity for the last couple of months.

Manager Tony Ritchie said Twizel was fast becoming a popular tourist destination.

"People seem to think it's the place to be. It's been great," he said.

Hermitage Hotel general manager Nigel Harper also reported strong visitor growth, but expressed disappointment that Air New Zealand's six-week trial flights from Christchurch to Mt Cook to Queenstown were not better marketed.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Brigitte Ransom said it had not decided whether to repeat the seasonal service.

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- The Timaru Herald

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