Southland’s tourism growing

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Visitor to Invercargill, Helen Mitchell of Hamilton gets her bearings of the city outside the Southland Museum & Art Gallery.

SOUTHLAND’S tourism industry is strong and continuing to grow, with total tourist spending in the region up 9% to $625 million for the year ending May, recently released statistics show.

The latest tourism figures compiled from Venture Southland (VS) show international visitor spending increased 20.5% to $258m for the year and domestic visitor spending increased 2.2% to $367m for the same period despite domestic guest nights falling 8%.

Although the tourism sector in the Southland region was strong, Invercargill’s tourism figures were a mixed bag.

Guest nights in the city fell 5.8% and the occupancy rate fell 8% to 38.4% for the year ending April.

International visitor spending in Invercargill rose 20.6% to $50m for the year ending May, but domestic visitor spending fell .8% to $179m for the same period, meaning the overall spend increased by 3.2%.

Tourism in the Southland District was more positive, with guest nights up 10.4% and total spending up 15.1% to $327m for the year.

International visitor spending increased 20% to $198m for the year ending May and domestic visitor spending in the Southland region was up 8.2% to $129m for the same period.

VS community, events and tourism general manager Bobbi Brown said overall the results were pleasing, particularly the increase in spending.

The Southland Regional Development Strategy’s goal for the tourist spend in Southland to reach $1b by 2025 was well on the way to being achieved, with spending increasing $126m in the past 18 months to two years, she said.

“There are more visitors in the area, but we are also creating more experiences and products to click that ticket.

“Curio Bay, Transport World, all these things are making Southland an attractive destination.”

Ms Brown said she was not concerned by the figures for Invercargill, because they did not capture the number of freedom campers, people travelling in campervans and people staying in the city through Airbnb, where local people rent out their homes to visitors.

The fact the international visitor spend had increased indicated people were still coming to the city and spending money, she said.

“If spend was down, I would be worried, but it’s not. The Southland region is booming.”

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