Massive increase in visitors to island

Island escape . . . Halfmoon Bay is the only settlement on Stewart Island/Rakiura. PHOTO: RICHARD SMITH/SUPPLIED

A Tourism operator believes Stewart Island is having its best summer in 30 years.

Rakiura Adventure owner Manfred Herzhoff has been overwhelmed with the number of visitors to the island and said it was one of few businesses benefiting from border closures.

Last month, visitor numbers increased by 150% compared with the past six months, and 200% compared with the past two months.

“It is definitely having a rebound of tourism…

“In my 30 years that I have been living here, I have never experienced something like that it was totally the opposite of my expectation.”

Mr Herzhoff believed the tourism sector had previously dismissed the importance of the domestic market.

“It is awesome but not without some reservation.

“We need to manage the island resources and find a strategy and a balance of lifestyle, income, activities, visitors and residents.”

He said the islanders had created a network to help each other.

When someone was booked out, they referred the visitor to another business.

“We are not competing… we are having a co-operative approach.”

Stewart Island Backpackers manager Carol Joy agreed.

This time of the year was usually busy, but this year it had surpassed expectations, she said.

Mrs Joy said that during the lockdown she was worried about the impact on her business and the others on the island.

“We thought this year would be closed doors.

“This fear is now gone but we still acknowledge that things can change quickly either can be another lockdown or if all the Kiwis finish their trips around the country.”

This summer she had seen more New Zealand families with children, and elderly couples visiting than before.

“Compared with other places in the world and New Zealand, we are quite fortunate because 70% of people had Stewart sland on their bucket list.”

The numbers were strong elsewhere on the island, too.

The new Rakiura Museum has had more than 800 visitors since its opening on December 1, while Real Journeys, since Boxing Day, had added another daily ferry service to and from the island.

Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris said there were always strong numbers at this time of the year but due to a high demand, capacity was raised by 30% so more people could enjoy the island.

The extra service would be running daily until February, when the company would reassess the services, he said.

“Stewart Island has than probably everyone expected.

“I think we had a lot of people who would like to visit Stewart Island/Rakiura once in their lifetime, so they are finally taking this opportunity.”url cloneAIR MAX PLUS