Tourism looking bright, says lodge owner

Networking . . . Pen-y-bryn Lodge owner James Glucksman (left) in conversation with another member of the Kiwi Link group.

New Zealand tourism is ‘‘back in business’’.

James Glucksman, who runs Oamaru’s Pen-y-bryn Lodge with partner James Boussy, returned this month from Kiwi Link UK/Europe and Kiwi Link North America, optimistic the industry was bouncing back after being decimated by the fallout of Covid-19.

The Kiwi Link events were organised by Tourism New Zealand, and suppliers of accommodation, activities and services for the tourism industry were brought ‘‘into market’’, Mr Glucksman said.

The men had not been able to attend in the past, due to scheduling clashes and the prohibitive cost, but this year, after a three-year Covid-induced hiatus from running the events, and as a way of helping out an ailing industry, the price had been reduced.

‘‘So it was far more affordable for us, and since this year we were not planning on doing any sort of in-market marketing, which normally we would do on our own — we would just go over and organise our own meetings with travel agents — I thought it would be a good idea to apply for this,’’ Mr Glucksman said.

He managed to gain one of 60 spots for Los Angeles, and one of 50 for London. Then an Australian travel agent, based in Las Vegas, organised other events in Houston, Chicago and Denver.

‘‘So in the end we had meetings in five cities, and met close to 300 agents over the two weeks or so that this took place. It was very, very good.’’

The general mood of the travel industry was people were ‘‘very, very excited that New Zealand was finally back in business’’.

‘‘That there was a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for people who wanted to come to New Zealand and were finally able to do so, and they were very excited to see that so many of their previous partners were still in business, and that new things had emerged.

‘‘[Because] what I found in LA and London, particularly, was we had known maybe two-thirds of the people we met with, and they, of course, knew us. So it was re-kindling those relationships.’’

Among the other third, were agents ‘‘very excited’’ to know there was a partner they could work with in a new area.

‘‘That was not already sort-of done to death,’’ Mr Glucksman said.

‘‘So they were very excited about the opportunities that Oamaru, and the Waitaki, and Pen-y-bryn, had to offer.’’

A problem which still existed, especially for the European markets, was the difficulty of securing flights here, with several routes not yet reinstated. However, it was an issue they believed would eventually resolve itself.

Departing Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro was also on the Kiwi Link trips, promoting the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and the International Marketing Alliance for Waitaki, Clutha and Dunedin in LA, and then in London representing just the marketing alliance, he said.

‘‘So there was quite a lot of cross-references between the two of us, because the way they organised the suppliers was on a north to south basis .. . we were right next to each other, pretty much.’’

Mr Glucksman tried to encourage agents to recommend people to take a more non-traditional route through New Zealand’s South Island, he said.

‘‘I was trying to promote this thing I call the best of the middle, going from Christchurch to Queenstown, via the Mackenzie and the Waitaki, and the Maniototo, and everybody took photographs of that route. I mean, it was amazing, so hopefully that will take off.

‘‘One of the things I think people were seeking, that was of interest, was activities and routings that were not going to be full of people, ’cos people are still a little bit uncomfortable in crowds, which is where I think the Waitaki in particular has a strength, since so many of our attractions are out in the open.’’

Since Mr Glucksman had returned from his trip, bookings had ‘‘just been crazy’’. They were almost fully booked until next autumn, and already had bookings for next December.

‘‘I kind of thought it would take a few years for things to bounce back, but certainly right now, our forward bookings probably look better than they normally would look this time of year,’’ he said.

He was also looking forward to welcoming back the mix of international guests Pen-y›-bryn had previously catered to, and a return to the ‘‘fascinating’’ conversations around the dinner table.

‘‘That has been missing a little bit, in the past two to three years, because everybody has been from New Zealand.’’