Wellington lays in supplies as it awaits the arrival of the red army
The red army roars into town in less than a week's time, and Wellington is gearing up to host the biggest party it has seen in years.
Bars and restaurants have been hiring extra staff and stocking up on supplies to cater for the British and Irish Lions fans, who are likely to start arriving from Sunday to see their team battle first the Hurricanes and then the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium.
But it's not just the hospitality industry that is set to benefit from the once-in-12-year event: more than 3000 guests are also expected to descend upon the capital's Airbnb hosts.
Airbnb bookings reached 36,000 for the last two months across the country, more than three times the 10,000 bookings for July.
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Some Wellingtonians who have put their homes on Airbnb are making up to $1000 a night, and for those hoping to still cash in, it's not too late to become a host.
The data shows guest arrivals in Wellington before the games sat at 638 people. During match week it is expected to hit 3050 guest arrivals, before shrinking back to 539 after the rugby buzz.
The typical host income is fluctuating during the Hurricanes and All Blacks games but, according to Airbnb data, it's about $576.30 during match days, compared with $521.41 after the tournament.
In Auckland, this Saturday's All Blacks game is set to see Airbnb guest numbers more than double to 3817 from last weekend's 1585.
The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency is expecting tens of thousands of visitors to arrive in Wellington next week.
Matt McLaughlin, who owns bars the Four Kings, Danger Danger, Dirty Little Secret, and Jack Hackett's, said the party would be a "monster".
"I think it will blow the socks off any of the major events we have seen here in the past.
"The way the city is set up now is bigger, brighter and bolder than it's ever been. It has more bars and restaurants, the bustling waterfront, and it has spread out around the city."
He and his staff have been following social media information patterns from the other cities, seeking out where people are socialising, and what they are drinking and eating.
"The British and Irish are really polite ... They drink differently, usually in rounds, and they pay in cash. They're there to have a good time, and it's up to us to ensure we cater for it.
"We are ramping everything up, bringing in former staff, calling on family and friends. It's all on."
That has included hiring a shipping container to fill with the extra kegs needed for the thousands who will flood the central city.
Restaurant Association Wellington president Mike Egan said the fans were "an organised, almost professional, group of sporting travellers".
"They tend not to leave things to the last minute, and turn up two hours before the game and stand in queues.
"We've been hearing they want to mix and mingle, and eat with locals. It will create a fantastic vibe.
"It will be a super cool Saturday night, and after the game we'll be on hand to welcome them back and perhaps cheer them up from crying in their beer after losing to the All Blacks again."
Airbnb New Zealand country manager Sam McDonagh said the site created unique connections and brought visitors to neighbourhoods outside of the traditional tourist hotspots.
"Our New Zealand hosts are amongst the highest-rated in the world and earn an average of just $4390 a year through Airbnb. While this doesn't sound like a lot, our hosts tell us this helps them take a holiday themselves, reduce the mortgage, or cover bills and household expenses."
THE LIONS ON AIRBNB:
The top 5 Wellington City areas
1 Te Aro
2 Mt Victoria
5 Mt Cook
The top 5 Auckland City suburbs
2 Albert – Eden
4 Devonport – Takapuna
5 Hibiscus and Bays