The West Coast district of Buller is the biggest gainer this summer in visitor spending, while many North Island destinations have seen steep declines, according to new data.
Figures from Dot Loves Data based on transactions of 2.8 million Eftpos cards between December 1, 2021 and January 21, 2022 show that visitor spending was only slightly – 2.4% – lower than that of the same period the previous summer, despite the entry of Covid-19 into the community in the run-up to Christmas.
Generally speaking, travelers tend to stay closer to home, with nearby destinations Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch faring better, analysts say.
Visitor spending at many North Island destinations was down from the previous summer, while the South Island saw “large spikes in visits, most likely because it was seen as largely Covid-free.”
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Areas in the red light of the pre-Christmas traffic light system – such as Auckland, the Far North, Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, Wairoa and Ruapehu – have seen the biggest declines in visitor spending, according to data.
“Another factor in reduced visitation to these areas has been the cancellation of Rhythm and Vines near Gisborne, which is the catalyst for thousands of visitors to the Tairāwhiti area and surrounding areas,” analysts said.
Visitor spending in Auckland, where the number of community cases was highest, was 26% lower than in the same period the previous summer.
Wairoa saw an even bigger drop in visitor spending (33%), while Ōpōtiki and Gisborne saw declines of 26 and 22% respectively.
Whanganui, also in the red light ahead of Christmas, bucked the trend, seeing an uptick in visitor spending this summer.
Buller District saw the highest increase in tourism spending over the period analyzed at 52%. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park and the Great Coast Road – which planet alone called one of the 10 best coastal drives in the world – are among the district’s best-known attractions, while charismatic small towns such as Reefton, Charleston and Karamea are among its more hidden gems.
A third of tourism spending in the Buller district came from Christchurch, Nelson, Auckland and Greymouth accounting for nine per cent, seven per cent and six per cent respectively.
The Waikato also had an exceptional summer, with visitors spending up to 20% compared to the previous summer. The surf town of Raglan proved particularly popular with Aucklanders, who accounted for 48% of tourism spending, and Hamiltonians, who accounted for 38%.
Kaikōura – famous for its encounters with wildlife such as whales, dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, penguins and several species of albatross – saw an 18% increase in visitor spending, most visitors from Canterbury, Auckland, Marlborough and Wellington.
“The other big winners were Carterton in the Wairarapa and Horowhenua, who were both favorites for Wellingtonians,” the analysts said. “And the Waitaki district, which was popular with holidaymakers from Dunedin, Christchurch and Timaru,” analysts said.