Operators bank on second tourist wave

Katy Jones



Stuff NZ Newspapers



Tourism businesses have their fingers crossed for another wave of Kiwi holidaymakers, as bookings dive at some operators across the top of the South Island. After an influx of visitors following Christmas, some companies said they were still ‘‘holding on by skin of their teeth’’ to survive continuing Covid-19 travel restrictions. Owner operator of R&R Kayaks Abel Tasman, Rohan Haskell, said the business had been busy since Boxing Day. But many visitors left the Abel Tasman National Park and surrounding areas last weekend. ‘‘We literally sat here on Saturday and Sunday and you could just watch the cars all leaving. They all had their trailers, and their bikes and their kayaks and things onboard.’’ Bookings were ‘‘pretty slim’’ for the rest of January at the family-run kayaking business in Ma¯rahau, on the edge of the national park north of Nelson. Fewer Kiwis had booked ahead than this time last year, Haskell said. Despite ‘‘going backwards’’ during the pandemic, the business could sustain itself for now, he said. ‘‘If we were surviving off this as a family, we wouldn’t be here right now. We’re just lucky that my wife is a school teacher, and so she’s gone back full-time teaching. ‘‘We’re hoping that we’ll get another wave of people coming back who had to work over Christmas.’’ Owners of Aquapackers, Mark and Jane Hooper, decided not to run their floating backpackers in the park at all this season (October to April). About 95 per cent of guests at the converted catamaran in Anchorage Bay were from Europe pre-Covid, Hooper said. The couple had put the boat on the market while he worked in Napier harbour, and would consider whether to try to set up the business again once the pandemic ‘‘calmed down’’. While the Government was to reassess next month whether to go ahead with plans to let fully vaccinated tourists into New Zealand from the end of April, Hooper wasn’t holding his breath. ‘‘2023, 2024 maybe, is where I’m optimistically looking,’’ he said. Murray Devine, who owns Mohua Motels in Ta¯kaka in Golden Bay, said the calendar was looking quiet from next Friday. ‘‘Last year we experienced similar, but it did fill up. This year I’m not as confident. Normally, we’re getting inquiries at least seven days forwards, and I’ve still got gaps.’’ It seemed as if the Omicron variant had ‘‘flipped things around’’, and people weren’t booking ahead in case things changed, he said. ‘‘People lose confidence to travel when those sort of things first burst out. Even now we’re seeing cancellations with people starting to say, ‘we’re not sure about travelling’.’’