New Year holiday visits up 15%

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A huge influx of tourists to Oamaru, predominantly from China, in February has proved fruitful for the town and especially the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.
Over the month, 10,763 visitors made their way to the penguin colony, with 62% of those from Asia.
Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill believed the increase in visitors from Asia could be attributed to Chinese New Year, which was celebrated from February 8.
He said the holiday was a “high travel period for Chinese in general”, while the summer overall had brought a surge of tourists from Asia.
“February was extremely busy and a lot of visitors came from overseas. Numbers in February were higher than they were in February last year and we’ve seen quite significant growth from visitors coming out of Asia, and China in particular.”It is not just the penguin colony that has benefited from the high Asian tourist numbers.
On any given day, busloads of tourists can be found wandering around the harbour area, Victorian Precinct, and Oamaru’s business district.
According to Tourism New Zealand statistics, 51,200 Chinese people visited New Zealand over the Chinese New Year holiday, up 15% on last year when 44,430 visited.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said the statistics showed regional New Zealand had become an increasingly popular destination.
“The figures are staggering and highlight the buoyant tourism sector in New Zealand and the massive growth in the Chinese market.
“In fact, tourism is enjoying such growth at the moment that it’s having an impact on regional economic growth.”North Otago Chamber of Commerce chairman and Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry said tourists were spending at businesses all over Oamaru, not just at the penguin colony and the Victorian Precinct.
“What we’re hearing is that the businesses, like cafes, restaurants and gift shops, are seeing the effects … our shop is very busy with them.”Tourism Waitaki advertises heavily in China through online platforms such as social media, and liaises directly with agents who promote Waitaki in Asia.
Mr Gaskill said Tourism Waitaki worked closely with Christchurch Airport and airlines that flew in and out of China.
“We’ve been working on this market for 20 years.” “This is not something that’s come out of the blue _ we’ve been building to this for five or six years. We’re seeing the results of a lot of concerted, focused effort.”He said the “vast majority” stayed in Oamaru for one night.
Mr Berry believed the best way to encourage tourists to stay longer would be to build a large hotel.
“We need a bigger hotel. We’d have more people if we had better accommodations.” “All of the business leaders know it’s a big issue and it’s a bit more obvious this year because we’ve been at capacity.”It was not uncommon to see “no vacancy” signs at all of Oamaru’s motels, Mr Berry, when large events were on in Dunedin, or school sports tournaments were held.
“It would be great to go out and advertise or promote a case around a hotel development. But, it needs some significant capital investment from a private partner to get it up.”
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