Domestic tourism helps economy afloat

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A cruise boat in Milford Sound. Fiordland tourism operators were among the most impacted in the region from the Covid-19 pandemic due to their reliance on international tourists. Photo: Supplied

DOMESTIC tourism appears to have saved Southland from border lockdown blues.

Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, Great South data showed a 7% or $14.08 million growth in tourism spending in July in the region compared with the same month last year.

Great South tourism and events general manager Bobbi Brown said apart from Fiordland, the region traditionally enjoyed a stronger domestic tourism market, meaning the absence of international visitors was less keenly felt.

This had been reflected in the data with domestic market spending up 11% for the month.

“I’m really pleased with the progress but I wasn’t surprised because of the comments I’ve been hearing from the operators,” Ms Brown said.

“We knew Southland has always been on the bucket list for a lot of people… People always said they would love to visit the Catlins and Stewart Island… I just think people are doing that while they can and while there are no international visitors.”

Great South general manager toursim and events Bobbi Brown.

She believed a big part of the growth was due to successful marketing campaigns encouraging people to visit the regions.

“We are seeing a new market popping up from people from places in New Zealand that usually did not come here.”

However, she acknowledged the numbers were not great for all operators in the region.

Fiordland data showed a 7.6% or $2.83 million decrease in July compared with July last year.

With the international market down 90% for the month, this result was driven by strong domestic growth, with the domestic market rising 56%.

“Fiordland’s traditionally strong international visitation means it continues to be one of the most impacted areas across New Zealand.

“They [Fiordland operators] will get there but for them it is a big change because they were used to targeting international customers. They are looking now how to change the operation and this takes a wee time.”

She did not have the data for August yet but, based on the comments from operators, she believed it would be similar.

“Since we came out of the lockdown, we’ve been seeing a trend of a gradual increase on [the numbers of] people travelling.

“Our key is to sustain that number, giving visitors different reasons to come and giving the operators some customers.”

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