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Martinborough a fan-favourite

Lions fans enjoying the festivities in Martinborough. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Jake Beleski

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Early indications suggest the visiting British and Irish Lions fans had a significant positive effect on the Wairarapa region, with Martinborough appearing to be a favourite destination.

Frank Cornelissen, of Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park, said the last week had been unbelievable, and compared it to “peak summer”.

“We were absolutely chocker for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night — we were really at capacity.

“It’s been amazing and they’ve been awesome guests as well.”

He said the week had been similar to what they experience between Christmas and New Year.

The benefits the Lions fans had brought to the region were “huge”.

“All of our units and sites have been full pretty much all the way through.

“It’s been amazing for us — it’s absolutely outstanding.”

Martinborough-based Susan McLeary helped organise the village’s Reds, Whites and Brews Festival.

She said many visitors to the wine village commented how much they had enjoyed seeing Martinborough “dressed up” and locals wearing the colourful Reds, Whites and Brews rugby shirts.

Mrs McLeary also helped bring 200 guests to Martinborough last Friday as part of a Venatour Wine Day.

Wairarapa Racing Club secretary Matthew Sherry said the Tauherenikau Racecourse had not experienced the same volume of visitors, but said that was to be expected when most Lions fans were looking for powered sites.

“We got a few in here, but the issue we have is that we don’t have power.

“As far as the touring campervans, Martinborough was chocker, and I know the powered sites around town were pretty much taken up.”

Mr Sherry praised Destination Wairarapa for doing a “bloody good job” organising the week.

There would be plenty of happy people after a successful week, he said.

“There was never an expectation (on how many people would turn up) because you just never know.

“But Wairarapa as a whole . . . there were people in red around the place so everybody will be happy with what’s happened.”

Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said even though statistics from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise had yet to be released, early indications from the region’s tourism operators and retailers were positive.

“The week before and days following the Lions games in Wellington, we saw a marked increase in campervans on the road through the Wairarapa with many staying at our holiday parks and camping grounds.

“Feedback from other accommodation providers and many of our cafes and restaurant operators indicated they experienced a huge increase in numbers through the door with people spending up large on food and beverages, and that’s exactly what we hoped for.”

Destination Wairarapa had spent several months planning for the visitors and educating them about choosing to travel down SH2, he said.

Helen Tickner, general manager for Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, said they had an excellent four days’ worth of Lions visitors, particularly after the test on Saturday when most supporters were heading north up SH2 to Hawke’s Bay

“They were such an obvious group — all wearing at least some bits of red, and lots of them wearing team jerseys and jackets.

“They were all in a very good frame of mind having had a wonderful welcoming time in all of New Zealand.”

The Mangatainoka Reserve may have been a bit wet last week, but Rosie Broughton from the Tui Brewery said campervans had been parking up in the brewery carpark instead.

“We have had a steady influx of Lions visitors over the last two weeks.

“They seemed to love our warm welcome, food and brewery tours, and had a lot of laughs once they got the gist of the ‘Yeah Right’ billboard.”

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