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Domestic tourism focus a positive

Wairarapa’s wine industry drags in domestic tourists. PHOTO/FILE

ARTHUR HAWKES
[email protected]

Tourism in Wairarapa could fare better than other regions due to the area’s popularity with domestic tourists.

Where major centres of international tourism, like Queenstown, will likely see major losses from the decline in international airline travel, Wairarapa may be able to preserve its reputation as a staycation hotspot.

A staycation is a holiday you take in your own country, which can mean a longer break, perhaps with an internal flight or rail journey, or a day trip to a destination closer by.

In Wairarapa, the big draws are its beaches, rolling grasslands, and world-renowned wine industry. The latter has numerous people travelling from Wellington and beyond, by car or train, then hopping on to bikes, or piling into wine tour vehicles, both familiar sights on the network of small roads connecting Martinborough’s vineyards.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s latest Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates for January 2020, show that the Wellington region saw a $255 million tourism spend: the sixth highest nationally.

When international flights are factored in, it becomes clear that far more of the Wellington region’s tourism is arriving domestically. The most recent data from the year 2018 shows that Auckland airport received 202,000 international visitors, compared with Wellington airport’s 16,000. Despite this, Wellington regional tourism spending remained high.

A Gladstone horse trekker takes in the view. PHOTO/GLADSTONE HORSE TREKS

Charlotte McDonald operates Gladstone Horse Treks, a popular tourist venue for those wanting a day spent riding through one of Wairarapa’s most beautiful vistas.

In any given season, McDonald estimated that about 85 per cent of her business comes from domestic tourism, rather than international, “and the other 15 per cent are mainly Australians”.

“In the short run I think we’re going to suffer, because people aren’t going to have the disposable income to spend on these sorts of things – but hopefully in the long run, when people aren’t as willing or able to go overseas, then they’ll look to travel domestically,” McDonald said.

“Wairarapa should hopefully do quite well out of that. We’ve got a lot to offer.”

Despite the coming downturn, McDonald remained optimistic about the domestic scene.

“Without the international people coming through, it’s always a worry, but as long as we push ourselves as a region, as a good destination for the rest of New Zealand to come and visit, push the wine and the outdoors, then I think we’ll be alright,” McDonald said.

“It’s definitely going to be a downturn, but we’re lucky we’re not Queenstown, or Wanaka, or one of those places.”

WellingtonNZ is the iteration of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, which is the regional economic development agency for the lower North Island.

As an institution devoted to Wellington and Wairarapa tourism, they’re pushing several aid strategies for tourism operators in the region.

Following the covid-19 lockdown, they have been running webinars to help tourism providers adjust to the challenges faced by greatly reduced activity.

On their website, they state, “WellingtonNZ is running online Building Business Resilience webinars addressing some key issues and providing specialist sessions for different affected industries and sectors.

“These sessions cover topics including remote working, cashflow and forecasting, leadership in crisis, mental health and well-being, and address some specific industry concerns.”

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