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Oamaru businesses are faring better than expected post-Covid, and some even better than last year, as New Zealanders explore further off the beaten track in their own country.

A survey, conducted by the Waitaki District Council economic development team, in collaboration with the Waitaki Tourism Association, was completed by 50 operators in the travel and tourism industry across the district, association chairwoman Jan Kennedy said.

The pandemic heavily impacted many businesses in the district in the past year, especially accommodation and transport providers, wildlife attractions, and travel companies. But many were in a better position than they thought they would be, and the majority had continued operating, although some with reduced hours and fewer staff.

The big surprise was 30% of businesses actually had an increase in visitor numbers and income in the past 12 months, as people sought out new and different experiences, Mrs Kennedy said.

Valley Views Glamping, The Fishwife at Moeraki and the Vanished World trail were three attractions which had a good amount of visitors.

“Oamaru and the Waitaki district have definitely benefited from the domestic boom. Many North Islanders have ventured south for the first time, travelling at a slower pace, interested in meeting local people and learning about our history,” she said.

Waitaki District Council business attraction and recovery manager Melanie Jones said there had been a noticeable increase in the over-65 age-group.

They would take longer holidays, spend more time in the regions, and explore all the area had to offer. They would engage with locals and enjoyed learning about places only locals would know about, often acting on recommendations of favourite places to eat and shop, she said.

Campervans had also been bringing couples and families into the area, making the most of its low-cost and free experiences. The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail had been a star attraction over the summer.

Of the businesses surveyed, 75% showed “high resilience” and looked well-positioned to survive the uncertainty of the next 12 to 18 months, and the focus would remain on the domestic market and neighbouring districts for many businesses.

Mrs Jones was aware of some Australian tourists visiting the district at the weekend, but said there was little sign of the rest of the world being allowed into the country for the rest of the year.

Waitaki District Council economic development manager Gerard Quinn said the council was “heartened” to see the district remaining relatively buoyant in a “very uncertain time”.