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Warm welcome . . . Liz and Dave Clare outside their Oamaru bed and breakfast, Oasis on Orwell, which has won a Booking.com traveller review award. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

The accolades for Oamaru keep on coming.

Over the past 10 years, the North Otago town has been labelled one of the 25 “hippest” destinations in the world by Cuisinemagazine, New Zealand’s “coolest” town by Lonely Planet – and it took the title of New Zealand’s “sharpest town” in a competition run by Seven Sharp.

Last week, it was named the most welcoming town in New Zealand. The award was bestowed by Booking.com, as part of its annual guest review awards, which recognise accommodation partners that consistently deliver good reviews from travellers.

Oamaru took out the top spot, followed by Hokitika, and Invercargill. Each town had to have at least 50 eligible accommodation providers to be included in the list.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the recognition did not come as a surprise.

Oamaru had always prided itself on a welcoming reputation – and it was special that had been recognised at a national level, Mr Kircher said.

“We know we’ve got something special, and we like to share that,” he said.

“We’re small enough that we’re used to knowing most of the people as you walk along the street and so it’s no big deal for us to say to people as we’re walking along.

“The further south you get, the friendlier New Zealanders get.”

One of the Oamaru properties to receive a traveller review award from Booking.com this year was Oasis on Orwell, owned by Dave and Liz Clare.

Mr and Mrs Clare started running the bed and breakfast 10 years ago, after moving to Oamaru from Auckland, and had welcomed thousands of guests from around the world into their home. They kept in touch with many of them.

“We try and make people enjoy themselves and feel relaxed,” Mrs Clare said.

They had baked cakes for people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, driven guests around on tours, offered homemade slices for afternoon tea, and cooked full breakfasts in the morning.

“Just little things – we put a wee flower on the side plate, but people say it makes all the difference,” she said.

“It’s the service and going the extra mile that makes the impression. You do that and people come back.”

Before Covid-19, 95% of their guests were international.

But Covid-19 restrictions gave them a chance to catch their breath and explore more of the South Island – and domestic tourism was keeping them “busy enough”, Mr Clare said.

Last year, Oasis on Orwell was named in the top 10 in New Zealand for Booking.com traveller reviews, with a rating of 9.9 out of 10.

Being named the most welcoming town in New Zealand was a testament to the hard work of accommodation providers in Oamaru, such as Mr and Mrs Clare, who went beyond what was expected, Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said.

“They work hard to make our visitors feel welcome, along with all the other people in the town, and I congratulate them on that recognition,” Mrs Munro said.

Last week, New Zealand comedian Tom Sainsbury referred to Oamaru as his “new favourite town” during an interview on The Project . Mr Sainsbury is the face of Tourism New Zealand’s latest campaign, policing the social media trends of New Zealanders.

“It all helps – all of that positive feedback and reinforcement,” Mrs Munro said.

Top 10 most welcoming towns in New Zealand

1. Oamaru

2. Hokitika

3. Invercargill

4. Cambridge

5. Picton

6. Lake Tekapo

7. Kerikeri

8. Palmerston North

9. Paihia

10. Twizel

Source: Booking.com