The West Coast’s Buller District is the biggest winner this summer in terms of visitor spending, while many North Island destinations have seen steep declines, new data shows.
Figures from Dot Loves Data based on transactions by 2.8 million Eftpos cards between December 1, 2021 and January 21, 2022 show visitor spending was only slightly – 2.4 per cent – lower than during the same period the previous summer, despite Covid-19 entering the community in the lead-up to Christmas.
The Buller District saw a 52 per cent increase in visitor spend this summer.
Generally speaking, travellers tended to stay close to home, with destinations close to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch faring best, analysts said.
Visitor spending in many North Island destinations was down on the previous summer, while the South Island experienced “large spikes in visitation, most likely because it was considered to be largely Covid-free”.
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Areas in the red light setting of the traffic light system before Christmas – such as Auckland, the Far North, Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, Wairoa and Ruapehu – experienced the biggest declines in visitor spending, the data showed.
“Another factor for the reduced visitation to these areas was the cancellation of Rhythm and Vines near Gisborne, which is the catalyst for thousands of visitors to the Tairāwhiti region and its surrounds,” analysts said.
Visitor spending in Auckland, where the number of community cases was highest, was 26 per cent lower than in the same period the previous summer.
Wairoa saw an even bigger drop in visitor spending (33 per cent), while Ōpōtiki and Gisborne saw declines of 26 and 22 per cent respectively.
Whanganui, also in the red light setting before Christmas, bucked the trend, experiencing a slight uptick in visitor spending this summer.
Whanganui saw an increase in visitor spending this summer despite being in the red light setting.
The Buller District saw the biggest increase in tourism spend over the analysed period at 52 per cent. Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park and the Great Coast Road – which Lonely Planet has called one of the top 10 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 the Buller District’s tourism spend came from Christchurch, with Nelson, Auckland and Greymouth accounting for nine per cent, seven per cent and six per cent respectively.
The Waikato has also experienced a bumper summer, with visitor spending up 20 per cent on the previous summer. Surf town Raglan proved a particular favourite with Aucklanders, who accounted for 48 per cent of tourism spend, and Hamiltonians, who accounted for 38 per cent.
Kaikōura – famous for encounters with wildlife such as whales, dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, penguins and several species of albatross – saw an 18 per cent rise in visitor spending, with most visitors coming from Canterbury, Auckland, Marlborough and Wellington.
“Other big winners were Carterton in the Wairarapa and Horowhenua, both of which were firm favourites with Wellingtonians,” analysts said. “And Waitaki District, which was popular with holidaymakers from Dunedin, Christchurch and Timaru,” analysts said.