With sunny days forecast and plenty of customers ready and willing to book, tourism businesses say summer is off to a cracking start.

It is the busiest time of the year for many operators who are keen to embrace the second summer with borders back open.

Whale Watch Kaikōura has seen a positive start.

Sales and innovation manager Abba Kahu said the business was feeling confident about the demand.

“We were almost heavily under-prepared for the numbers last summer so we’ve geared up and made sure that we’ve got all hands on deck for this summer,” Kahu said.

“The numbers that are passing through at the moment have exceeded our expectations.”

It had been great for the town, she said.

“We are just loving how vibrant our community has been over the last two or three months, and it’s fantastic just to see so many tourists around and our boats busy.”

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Steve Armitage said there was a lot to be happy about this summer, with settled weather encouraging New Zealanders and tourists alike to get out and about.

“The most noticeable and obvious boost this holiday season has been the influx of international visitors,” he said.

“We’ve got airline connectivity back at good capacity and cruise ships coming in on a regular basis too, so we’re seeing good numbers of visitors getting out to soak up the sunshine and to spend in our communities, which is fantastic.”

Accommodation businesses were reporting a slight drop in domestic spending, but that had been buoyed by strong demand from overseas tourists with several last-minute bookings and multi-night stays, Armitage said.

The next couple of months also looked promising with good forward bookings, with some accommodation providers saying theirs were up 40 percent on the same period last year.

The usual hotspots of Queenstown, Rotorua and Auckland have all been doing well this summer, but Armitage said there had been welcome aroha for some hard-hit regions.

“Really pleasingly those regions that have been most severely impacted by weather events in recent times are seeing good volumes and increased spend,” he said.

“The likes of Coromandel, Northland and Tai Rāwhiti are really appreciating the fact that by and large, roads are back open and people are able to get in and around their particular regions with relative ease.”

Concern some businesses still struggling

But for every business that was doing well, there was another having a tough time while facing higher cost, Armitage said.

Despite this, he remained positive about the year ahead.

“I’m not kidding myself that once we get through summer, some of those establishments that are still struggling to make ends meet may no longer make it,” Armitage said.

“We saw some high-profile closures last year. I expect there may be a few more this year.

“But we’re at the point where things are starting to bottom out and I feel like we’ll start to see strong resurgence in the sector.”

Ahipara Horse Treks manager Selena Anderson said before Christmas, business was steady.

“When the weather’s good, then it’s good. So that peak time after New Year’s and between people going back to work has been super busy,” she said.

“But we did have a few days of rain, so obviously it’s quieter because it depends on the weather.”

She hoped the weather continued to play ball and they got more of a boost before the end of the school holidays.

“It’s busier than it was last summer. Last summer we had so many cancellations because of the weather. But it’s probably not as busy as what it was prior to that so the summer before.

“Even though it was Covid, we had a super busy summer with families travelling through.”

Hospitality New Zealand is developing an industry 10-year strategy with plans to go out to its members for consultation by the end of January.

By Tess Brunton for rnz.co.nz

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