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Destination . . . Kaikoura's awrd-winning state-of-the-art museum, which opened within days of the November 2018 earthquake, has become popular with visitors. File photo

By DAVID HILL

What a difference a year makes for Kaikoura’s tourism industry.

Last summer began with uncertainty, with State Highway 1 to the north of the town opening just 10 days before Christmas, following the November 2016 earthquake.

But this season, with more certainty over road access and the recovery trucking along, a bumper summer is on the horizon.

Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby says he is looking forward to seeing lots of people making road trips to the tourist town, while some large cruise ships are on the horizon.

“The road is certainly open and it’s a good drive up State Highway 1 now, so we encourage people to come and see what’s happened.

“We’re about 12 percent behind at the moment, but if we get a big summer and busy Chinese New Year it will hopefully get us back to our pre-quake spend. “To get to that point in just two years, we think it’s pretty good.”

Evidence that Kaikoura is bouncing back is confirmed in the recent announcement by Airbnb that Kaikoura is the “top trending destination” globally, with a 295% year-on-year increase in bookings and a 210% year-on-year increase in searches.

Mr Ormsby says this has not been achieved in isolation.

“It’s thanks to central government and particularly the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and it’s thanks to collaboration with our regional tourism partners from Timaru to Picton.”

Mr Ormsby says there is plenty for Kaikoura tourist operators to get excited about, with work on building the Sudima Hotel due to begin in the new year and some operators reporting forward bookings for 2020.

“And there’s talk of other things happening around town, so watch this space.”

On-the-water operators such as WhaleWatch and Encounter Kaikoura are gearing up for a busy summer and Mr Ormsby says there is plenty to do on land, including the Kaikoura Peninsula Walk, visiting the seal colonies, climbing Mt Fyffe, and a visit to the Kaikoura Museum.

“And it’s fantastic driving up the north road to see how the road works are progressing and see the Ohau Point seal colony. It looks amazing.”