Busy summer boosts operator spirits

    Mitre Peak looks over the Milford Sound harbour. Fiordland has experienced an influx of visitors during the summer holiday period. Photo: File

    SOUTHLAND tourism operators are pleased with the number of visitors during the summer holiday period.

    However, their optimism included a note of caution, as they say there is still a long way to go to achieve the numbers of pre-Covid-19 times when international tourists made up a big part of the market.

    Visit Fiordland manager Stu Cordelle said the feedback from operators had been very positive.

    “It has been busy than last year, which is great.”

    There had been more Aucklanders exploring Fiordland.

    The region had been one of the most affected in the country by the closure of the borders.

    Mr Cordelle said it was very hard to replace the international market, but he was pleased people were “coming down” to visit.

    “We are very happy with the numbers of this holiday period, but to be optimistic we need to look further down the track and, at the moment, that is not looking great because after the summer numbers drop off… we need those bookings starting to pick up again.”

    Air New Zealand recorded more than 31,000 people visiting the region during the summer holiday period on about 700 flights.

    Great South tourism and events general manager Bobbi Brown believed New Zealanders were taking more time to explore their country.

    She had expected an increase in visitors after the Auckland borders opened, but the positive feedback from operators had surpassed her expectations.

    “People are making the most of Southland with our beaches and the walks.”

    She could not quantify the increase, but said Great South was carrying out surveys on Stewart Island, and in the Catlins and Western Southland.

    The region had a “huge potential for tourism”, she said.

    Riverton Holiday Park and Camping Ground co-owner Veronica Wylie said her business was fully booked until next week.

    “I would say this summer was better than last year. I feel people are travelling and exploring their own neighbourhood way more than before and we hope it keeps going that way.”

    Not all attractions have had a boost, however.

    In Invercargill, Bill Richardson Transport World executive director Joc O’Donnell said visitor numbers for December last year were down by 30% compared with the same month in 2020.

    “Summer is typically our busiest period, and we’ve been operating with significantly reduced visitor numbers for almost two years now, so the hard times are certainly not over yet.”