Southland tourism figures continue to climb

Venture Southland tourism team leader Warrick Low.
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/FAIRFAX NZ

Venture Southland tourism team leader Warrick Low.

Southland's economy has received another boost from tourism, with the number of guest nights in the region up by more than 4 per cent.

Figures released by Venture Southland on Monday show tourists stayed a total of 402,894 in Southland in the year ending October 2015 - an increase of 4.4 per cent.

In the same period, guest nights rose 13.8 per cent to 534,080 in Fiordland.

Venture Southland tourism team leader Warrick Low said the figures, which were gleaned from Statistics New Zealand and Commercial Accommodation Monitor data, reflected international stars Prince Harry and Joseph Parker putting the spotlight on Southland in 2015.

While visitor expenditure figures had only been calculated to the end of March - before Prince Harry and Parker visited - they showed tourists had generated $460 million over 12 months. That figure was an increase of 18.25 per cent.

"The Joseph Parker was huge because that's an associated element in terms of international exposure, that was the biggest one," Low said.

"That was up in the [United] States and in Australia. That's pretty big."

Guest nights among international visitors to Southland were up 4.8 per cent, while domestic figures rose 4.3 per cent.

In Fiordland, the number of international guest nights climbed 15.2 per cent and domestic tourists accounted for 10.9 per cent growth.

Tourism growth was national and unpredictable, Low said.

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"We've got to be realistic, the industry and [Southland's] reputation is very buoyant. We've been blessed for being a unique part of the South Island. Stewart Island with Prince Harry has been very positive, and we're a very positive thinking region.

"We're also a very affordable destination and we've got that proximity to Queenstown, where numbers are continuing to go up."

The new data shows Queenstown guest nights are up 12.2 per cent, while areas including Mackenzie, Nelson-Tasman and Wellington also recorded growth.

Whanganui bucked the trend, with guest nights down 20.5 per cent, while Auckland and Dunedin also lost ground.

Newly established restaurants, museums and attractions took hold as hotels packed out, Low said.

He cited the Bill Richardson Museum, the soon-to-open Amigos Mexican restaurant, and new franchises including McDonald's and BurgerFuel as new attractions. 

"It's very important to stress that it's happening nationwide, and you look at how Fiordland is going and that's going gangbusters and that's a myriad of experiences.

"Whether that's boating, kayaks or caving, it's real world-class there. We're up right up on the other side of the ledger and it's exciting times." 

Smaller events like Riverton's harvest festival and the Bluff Oyster Festival also played a significant role during a "buoyant time" for events in Southland, Low said.

"The great thing about events is they just complement as they start to fill out the weekends, and that's when things are quiet for businesses.

"It's just how we get our 5 per cent of others going to Queenstown. There's definitely changes but we continue as a region and say it's something that we want." 

All it took was a look around Invercargill to the new restaurants and other franchises, and it was clear businesses were responding to higher visitor numbers, Low said.

"... a bit of our culture, a bit of our food, a bit of our accent and that's all it takes."

The Southland Regional Development Strategy would continue to grow tourism, Low said.

"The Regional Development Strategy is going good and [is about] what can we do to keep [tourism] going.

"It's a co-ordinated approach to make sure tourism is going well in the future."

Destination Fiordland tourism manager Philippa Murrell said Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Lake Manapouri had natural beauty that kept visitors coming back.

International and domestic tourism had seemingly picked up after the Global Financial Crisis, she said. 

"It's just a reflection of the change that there's more people travelling around the country. People are starting to realise what's in their backyard a bit more."

TOURISM BY THE NUMBERS

Average length of stay

  • Southland: 1.76 nights
  • Fiordland: 1.95 nights

Guest Nights for year ending October 2015

  • Southland: up 17,727 guest nights (4.4 per cent)
  • Fiordland: up 73,703 guest nights (13.8 per cent)
  • Queenstown :up 25,000 guest nights (12.2 per cent)
  • Nelson-Tasman: up 9000 guest nights (11.8 per cent)
  • Dunedin: down 8000 guest nights (9.9 per cent)
  • Auckland: down 7000 guest nights (1.1 per cent)
  • Whanganui: down 3000 guest nights (20.5 per cent)
International visitor spending in New Zealand (year ending September 2015)
  • China (up 78 per cent)
  • US (up 55 per cent)
  • UK (up 43 per cent)

 - Stuff

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