Tourism spend rises in the Hurunui District

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By ADAM BURNS, LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER

Tourism spend in the Hurunui district has risen over the past year and eclipsed pre-Covid levels, despite the onset of the pandemic on the wider sector.

But local tourism representatives suggest it may be a false dawn, and the brunt of Covid restrictions under the traffic light system would soon take its toll.

A total spend of $120 million was noted in the district for the year to November 2021, an increase of nearly 10 percent on figures recorded back in February 2020.

The figure was also up on the year to November 2020 by 15 percent, according to Marketview data.

Hurunui Tourism Board chair Geoff Shier says the area had performed well compared to other regions around the country.

“We are fortunate here in the Hurunui to be an hour and a half away from a major city,

“It’s actually been quite busy, accommodation levels have been good, restaurant support has been good.

“So we have been in quite a fortunate situation, of course that is all domestic, with visitors coming from Auckland and the North Island.”

He says the district’s visitor makeup, even before Covid, was largely domestic, with only 20 percent of holidaymakers to the area coming from offshore.

However, Mr Shier says things were starting to wane under the red light setting.

“It’s different now compared to before we went into this latest round of restrictions

“Things under the red light have really dropped away,” he said.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pool and Spa, the district’s most notable economic drawcard, only drew “between a third and half” of clientele over Waitangi weekend due to restrictions.

“Numbers are well down…the situation is not good.”

Close to a million dollars of Government relief had been provided for the Hurunui district’s tourism industry over the past two years.

No indication had been made of further support, Mr Shier says.

The Hurunui Tourism Board approved marketing budgets for the coming financial year this week, as it aims to help the local sector recover from Covid-19 and help “develop sustainable tourism in the area”.