Boost for Fiordland tourism

The bridge at Giants Gate on the Milford Track, which was replaced after the old one which was damaged in the February 2020 flood. Photo: File

DEPARTMENT of Conservation staff were astounded by the overwhelming response it received to Milford Track bookings this year.

All available spaces sold within three minutes of opening last week, Department of Conservation (DOC) Heritage and Visitors director Tim Bamford said.

“Each year, we think the Milford can’t sell out any faster and each year we are proven wrong.

“Yesterday was no exception. At 9.30am we had 6000 customers logged on, all looking to book the 7480 spaces on the Milford.”

Booking data showed 80% of bunk space was booked by New Zealanders; 10% Australian and 5% United States citizens and 5% mixed overseas customers.

“I’m heartened to see New Zealanders continuing to book on to the Milford in high numbers, alongside the return of international visitors which will be a boon for Te Anau and Southland communities.”

He sympathised with those who were unable to secure a spot and hoped would-be walkers would be willing to explore alternative options.

“The good news is that here are nine other stunning Great Walks to choose from including, Abel Tasman, Rakiura and the Heaphy…”

Anyone wishing to take on a Great Walk should ensure they put in the necessary planning and preparation needed to stay safe and get the most from the experience, which included a walk to match their skills and fitness level, and checking track and weather forecasts before heading out, he said.

Mr Bamford had been asked about the possibility of bots taking the spots. But analysis had revealed no evidence of bot activity.

“Because of the way the booking process is designed and how inventory is reserved early in the booking process, there would be no advantage to using a bot anyway.”

Great South Tourism and Events general manager Mark Frood said it was great to see things turning around for Fiordland.

“Having confirmed bookings for the entire next season is just the kind of certainty tourism operators need right now.

“With international borders reopening and tourism businesses now able to access Tourism
Kickstart Funding things are definitely on the up for tourism businesses.’’

Great South had been working hard to get the message out that Te Anau was not only a through point on the way to Milford but somewhere people need to spend a few days.

“Our Te Anau Time campaign made a huge impact nationally. The most recent campaign push focused on activities like the Great Walks.”

Mr Frood also said he believed the direct Auckland to Invercargill flight would mean other parts of Southland would be opened up to visitors who were travelling to the region for the Milford Track walk.

DOC bookings also opened for the Hump Ridge, Routeburn, Kepler and Rakiura track last week but staff were unable to confirm booking numbers.