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Events provide boost for regional economy

More than 18,000 visitors attended Wairarapa events in the past two weeks, giving the region a tourism boost after a slower winter.

The region experienced a drop in August visitors, blamed partly on Wellingtonians cutting back on spending.

Organisers estimated more than 12,000 attended the Wings over Wairarapa air show in Masterton at the weekend, while about 6000 went to the Toast Martinborough wine and food festival the weekend before.

Anna Nielson, general manager of Destination Wairarapa, said she expects settled summer weather to positively impact tourism.

“As well as friends and family coming to the region for Christmas and New Year, summer brings peak visitation for international visitors. Numbers coming to New Zealand continue to grow, as do Wairarapa’s share of these visitors.”

After years of disruptions in tourism, new patterns are emerging, Nielson said.

“The summer may indeed give a better indication of what the ‘new normal’ looks like.”

A report presented to Masterton District Council’s audit and risk committee by Nielson earlier this month showed visitor numbers down on last winter. Total guest nights in August were 14,200, down from 16,900 for the same month last year, according to the quarterly report.

Average nights stayed remained steady at 1.9.

“August is 2700 down on the year previous, and it appears the ‘bounce’ upwards that typically comes in September for Wairarapa is not going to come until later,” the report said.

Nielson said several factors are impacting the sector.

“Wellington is our greatest domestic market. You may have read newspaper articles recently about various longstanding hospitality businesses that are going under in Wellington.”

Nielson said Wellingtonians have cut back on spending, including in Wairarapa.

“With elections, uncertainty over what direction the government is going to take … job security with government departments, and of course the cost of living, that is having an impact on tourism.

“We may have a good summer if the sun shines. The weather has had an impact,” she added.

Nielson cautioned that the tourism environment had shifted since covid-19. “It’s going to be a tough time across the economy for everybody.”

While domestic spend has slightly increased, international spending has increased markedly.

Electronic card transactions showed an increase in Wairarapa by 1.3 per cent in July 2023, from $12.3 million in July 2022 to $12.5 million.

International card spending increased by 52.6 per cent in July 2023, from $470,000 in July 2019 to $717,000.

Wairarapa had the 6th highest growth in regional tourism across New Zealand.

“Pre-covid, international tourists did not really visit Wairarapa during the winter months,” the report said.

“It is hoped the Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve in time will change that trend.” -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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