Struggling tourism operators in Fiordland are hoping Labour Day weekend will bring a much-needed “short sharp” cash injection into the economy.
Annual spending in the region to August 2020 was down 23 per cent on the previous year to $200 million.
Fiordland is expected to see an $88 million decline in overall tourism spend through to Christmas because of the country’s borders being shut. That would be a 70 per cent drop in revenue.
Destination Fiordland manager Madeleine Peacock said hopefully Labour Weekend would be a bright spot in what would be a dark future.
However, she warned that “busy” didn’t mean the town would be as full as usual, and not everyone would benefit from more visitors.
“Domestic tourists spend differently. Kiwis are known to love their good wine and food,” she said, but they were less keen to spend on activities.
Fiordland is known as the walking capital of New Zealand but that tourism sector has also been hit hard after floods in February caused major infrastructure damage to Milford and Routeburn tracks.
It’s thought a month’s revenue has been lost but track repairs were expected to be completed the end of November.
Events scheduled in Te Anau this weekend included an annual fishing competition and art exhibition.
Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park owner Jill Tauri said bookings did not look “too bad”.
Most visitors were leaving on Sunday instead of Monday, though.
Tauri expected this weekend to provide a “short and sharp” boost.
There was hope the accommodation could fill up during the weekend, and she had staff on standby just in case.
“Kiwis don’t book ahead. They just show up,” she said.
Fiordland Historic Cruises co-owner Adam Butcher said a busy Labour Day weekend, which was traditionally the start of the tourism season in Te Anau, would bring confidence that Kiwis were getting out and about, and that the town could expect a busy summer.
Fiordland Jet co-owner Chris Adams wasn’t too optimistic.
While “work dos” and group packages were doing well, day-to-day trade had not been “too flash”, he said.
On the upside, more Kiwis were now discovering Te Anau as a destination, he said.
He had met a couple of Aucklanders who visited on the recommendation of friends, because they’d never heard of the town before.
“They’re the groups that we’re hoping will come this summer,” Adams said.
Adams said it was important to encourage tourists to stay for a couple of days, rather than one night, because they would be more likely to spend more in the town.
Kiwi Country chief executive Noel Walker was also hopeful the town would be full of holidaymakers during the weekend, who would bring immediate cashflow.
Dot Loves Data government director Justin Lester said Te Anau had been significantly impacted by the loss of international tourists.
“We measure all regions of New Zealand and for the seven-day period to October 21, total consumer spending in the Southland District was down 16.3 per cent.”
Dot Loves Data and Eftpos NZ data shows accommodation and tourist attraction businesses have seen a 42.6 per cent and 48 per cent drop in spending respectively.
“Te Anau experienced a modest pick-up in the second half of June 2020, when consumer spending was four to six per cent above the 2019 levels, but since August 30, it has been consistently down 10 to 20 per cent,” Lester said.
Meanwhile, Peacock thanked Southlanders for their support in recent months.
“Every visitor counts for us and every night that someone stays helps a community keep its doors open,” she said.
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