There’s good news and predictable bad news.
The good news is that the number of visitors to the Waitaki district in the July school holidays was up 30% on last year.
Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said there was a lot of positivity in the holidays.
“It blew us away.”
The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony hosted a large number of visitors, and was increasingly popular through its digital updates.
The bad news is that domestic visitors numbers “scaled back again” when Auckland went into Covid-19 Level 3 lockdown.
Air traffic immediately dropped to 5% of its normal volume, Mrs Munro said.
Visitor spending in June this year showed no difference to that of June last year. That was likely due to Waitaki having a diverse cross-section of industries, whereas other districts had suffered large drop-offs because they did not have as wide a range, she said.
Tourism Waitaki has a new marketing plan that has just been signed off by its board. It would be expansive across several platforms, including digital, print, and radio, and sent out to all tourism operators.
Waitaki was using some of the $400,000 Government funding it received as a small regional tourism organisation to collaborate with its neighbours in the lower South Island and the Mackenzie district on tourism promotions.
“It made a huge difference. We could pick up our work in the destination management space,” Mrs Munro said.
It also allowed Tourism Waitaki to return some of its staff to full-time hours.
Outdoor opportunities that were attracting large visitors numbers in many places were being promoted here. The website waitakinz.com featured a variety of itineraries for the district’s walking, hiking, and cycling trails.
The Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, which was “a popular drawcard”, has its own extensive marketing plan. Interest had risen since cycling became a frequent form of exercise during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.
Summer bookings were already strong to ride the trail, Mrs Munro said.
The Waitaki lakes were another big attraction, especially for families who wanted to go camping.
This district could benefit from a resurgence of interest in small towns, she said.
“Domestic tourists can relate to small town New Zealand, going back to our roots.”
They liked places that had retained their atmosphere and origins, so it was good that Oamaru took pride in its identity.
“People can relate to that.
“And it’s affordable and family-friendly.”
Waitaki was also “a destination for all types of toys” – such as boats, skis and four-wheel drives, Mrs Munro said.
Tourism operators’ special deals were promoted on waitakinz.com.
A lot of them were from the perspective of adding on value rather than offering discounts, Mrs Munro said.
It was important not to devalue the experiences they gave visitors, she said.
Tourism Waitaki would run a visitor experience workshop in November, discussing how operators engaged with their customers and what they provided.