Post-quake tourism figures reassuring for region, Destination Marlborough says

Passengers disembark the Emerald Princess in Picton, one week after the November 14 earthquake.
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Passengers disembark the Emerald Princess in Picton, one week after the November 14 earthquake.

The first tourism receipts since the November 14 earthquake are a reassuring sign for the region, Destination Marlborough says.

Marlborough visitor spend in November dipped only 1.1 per cent on the same period last year, according to the latest Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment estimates.

General manager Tracy Johnston said the figures were consistent and markedly stronger than nearby districts Wellington and North Canterbury, which were down 11.7 per cent and 19.7 per cent, respectively. 

Destination Marlborough general mangaer Tracy Johnston says visitor spend in the region dipped 1.1 per cent in November ...
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Destination Marlborough general mangaer Tracy Johnston says visitor spend in the region dipped 1.1 per cent in November on the previous year, a stronger result than neighbouring districts.

"Marlborough appears to be more resilient than Wellington and North Canterbury. Our neighbours have dropped off more than we have," she said.

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Johnston, who announced her resignation from her position with the tourism organisation last week, said the figures accounted for two weeks post-quake and were a positive early indication.

Marlborough Tour Company general manager Scott McKenzie says it is business as usual after a brief period of uncertainty ...
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Marlborough Tour Company general manager Scott McKenzie says it is business as usual after a brief period of uncertainty immediately following the earthquake.

"It's reassuring but we still have more data to come. We are hearing very positive reports from operators," she said.

"The test of time will be when we are not in our peak season."

The earthquake and the closure of State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch would undoubtedly impact visitor flows from the east coast, Johnston said.

However, the activities on offer to tourists in Marlborough remained largely unchanged from the quake, she said.

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"The frustrating thing is that there has been no change to the visitor experience. It is only the time that it takes to come by road which has changed," she said.

Marlborough ranked in the top five performing regions for year-on-year growth to November 2016 with the visitor spend totalling $375 million for the 12 months to November, an 8.9 per cent increase on the previous year.

"Marlborough should be proud of itself," she said.

Marlborough Tour Company general manager Scott McKenzie said it was business as usual after the initial uncertainty of the disaster.

"We had a big dip when the quake happened but since then it has swung back the other way. There were a lot of people displaced in Marlborough who couldn't get down to Kaikoura," he said.

"Once the ferry flow got back up the numbers coming through have been very strong.

"I'm not surprised by the figures, it shows Marlborough is seen as a good destination."

Messaging from Destination Marlborough to reinforce that the region was still open for business had been a big help in retaining tourists, McKenzie said.

Visitors contribute $1 million a day to the region's economy, with about two-thirds coming from domestic visitors.

Johnston said it was important to attract visitors from a variety of regions around the country while the route in and out of Canterbury was being repaired.

"2017 is about adapting our focus so we can maintain visitor spending," she said.

The coming months would bring a number of popular events, including the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival, and Johnston hoped they would further the region's summer success.

"Events are a fantastic catalyst for driving visitors and it is shaping up to be a very good summer season," she said.

Total tourism spend in New Zealand increased 4 per cent from November 2015, with international tourism declining by 2 per cent and domestic tourism growing by 11 per cent.

 - The Marlborough Express

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