Increased tourism spending in the Waikato matched by hotel expansion
Visitors spent $811 million in Hamilton in 12 months.
The Hamilton spend ranked fifth in the country - behind Auckland, Queenstown-Lakes District, Christchurch city and Wellington. Rotorua was sixth.
The wider Waikato raked in $1.4 billion between August 2016 and August 2017, according to Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment figures.
The boom has spurred a $13m extension to the riverside Novotel Tainui Hamilton.
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Plans to attract more tourism dollars to the Waikato include boosting Māori tourism, sports tourism, and agri-tourism, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said.
"We also have other opportunities to engage with and create more activity on the Waikato River, grow our foodie experiences and develop key infrastructure like large-scale commercial accommodation."
The organisation is already rolling out a plan to get more value out of the tourist dollar.
In the month of August 2017, visitors spent $101m in the region - a 4 per cent increase on spending in the same month last year.
Judging by 12-month spending figures, the typical Waikato tourist wants something new to take home and a bit of wining and dining.
Visitors spent $1.448m in the year to August 2017 - the biggest chunks of it in shops and at restaurants, cafes and bars.
The Lions tour created a huge spike in hospitality spending on the days around the June 20 game, Dawson said - and that didn't capture cash exchanges.
"Paymark reported total spending was $12 million on Tuesday of the game, up $1.1 million on an average Tuesday in May."
Dawson's also pleased about the 40-room expansion announced by Novotel.
Offering 217 rooms and suites will allow Hamilton to keep up with demand "as the city grows as a business and visitor centre", Tainui Group Holdings chief executive Chris Joblin said.
"This is an exciting time for the iwi, Hamilton and the Waikato region, with a lot of development under way combined with the continued benefits of the ongoing tourism boom. We're in a fortunate geographic position to provide overflow capacity for Auckland."
Other ideas for tourism boosters are being floated, including a billion-dollar development featuring a water adventure park in Horotiu. Mercer, in North Waikato, is also making a bid to put itself on the tourist map.
Many of the tourists don't need a passport - Kiwis were the biggest spenders by far in August, as was the case in almost all other parts of the country.
In August 2017, the next biggest groups of spenders were Chinese tourists and Australian tourists, according to the MBIE figures.
However, Australian and US visitors overtake Chinese when a full year of spending is taken into account.
Moteliers have seen busy patches over the past year, Waikato Motel Association president Lloyd Stone said, but there's room to grow.
He said there were weeks - such as during Fieldays - when city motels reach capacity, "but there are 52 weeks in a year".
"Hamilton needs more events. It needs to be promoted as an events centre."
Figures for the Waikato quoted are for the regional tourism organisation area: Hamilton city, Waikato District, Matamata-Piako District, Waipa District, Waitomo District, Otorohanga District and South Waikato District.