Visitors are flooding to Queenstown these school holidays, with tourist numbers this month expected to exceed pre-Covid levels.

And for some, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the lower south โ€” but don’t panic, it’s all part of a new winter experience.

The two-week break has only just started for Kiwi families but the tourism mecca has already experienced growth in passengers flying into the region. There are set to be almost 460,000 passengers through Queenstown Airport over the next two months.

The terminal will see an extra 13,000 people through in July and 27,000 more in August compared to the same months in 2019.

Lauren Christie, who runs the “Christmas Wonderland” event at Ayrburn near Arrowtown, is seeing the crowds. The event โ€” which features Christmas decorations and an ice-skating rink โ€” is getting plenty of traffic.

She told 1News: “We’ve seen thousands of people through each day, and the reaction has just been like a really big hit.”

There are plenty of other treats for Queenstown visitors as well, with the ski fields being top of the list for many.

Cardrona Alpine Resort general manager Laura Hedley said there have been bluebird conditions forecast for the week.

“We had a great storm at the start of last week which delivered about half a metre of snow across both [Cardona and Treble Cone] mountains which meant we could open pretty much all of our lifts, way more terrain,” she said.

Hotels are busy too. Stewart Manson from Crowne Plaza in Queenstown told 1News that it’s been “a little bit slower than last year in terms of forward bookings but the snow last week certainly saw a spike in bookings, which was fantastic”.

Air New Zealand said Queenstown is the most popular domestic destination these school holidays.

Queenstown Airport spokesperson Todd Grace said: “I think what people are choosing to do this year is spread their holidays out.

“So, instead of people coming to Queenstown in one great big surge, we’re seeing good strong bookings particularly from across the Tasman all throughout winter,” he said.

Manson has also seen a change in visitor behaviour: “I think people are looking for a lot more flexibility in their reservations so they can book that a little bit closer to the time and not have penalties if they cancel.”

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