Rotorua tourism operators are thanking New Zealand residents and visitors from Australia for their support last month, leaving the businesses better prepared for the slower autumn and winter months ahead.
April kicked off with the long Easter weekend, traditionally a busy time for tourism operators. That was followed by two weeks of school holidays, the opening of the trans-Tasman travel bubble on the 19th, and culminating in another long holiday weekend to commemorate ANZAC Day. All this lead to booked-up accommodation and lots of travelers out and about experiencing our array of tourism activities.
“The domestic market’s been great for us,” said Rotorua Duck Tours owner-manager Trevor Weir. “They’ve gone out and supported New Zealand.
“April was really strong for us and Easter weekend was one of the best we’ve ever had. It will help us get through the next few months.”
Coming into what is considered the start of the ‘shoulder season’ in tourism-speak, it’s difficult to predict what to expect regarding Rotorua visitor numbers. Typically the long Easter weekend is the last great push before winter settles in. However, the handful of tourism operators we spoke to said they enjoyed a better than expected month.
Velocity Valley sales and marketing manager Debbie Guptill said, “April was fantastic. Kiwis still came out in droves.
“Our April month-end stats definitely exceeded our expectation versus 2019. With Easter and the school holidays having their separate placements within the month, it definitely allowed Rotorua two bites of the cherry within the month. In previous years, Easter has been lumped into the school holidays which isn’t ideal when you’re looking to maximise visitor numbers. However the two separates holidays is just what we needed here in Rotorua.”
David Blackmore, general manager of Waimangu Volcanic Valley echoed Debbie and Trevor’s positive reports. He also attributes some of the success to the work he and his team have made at the geothermal park in order to appeal to what will be a domestic-driven tourism market for the foreseeable future. Refurbishments, new products, regular and one-off events, and more, have been on the cards for Waimangu and other operators.
“We have had a big last 12 months or so with the launch of new products and offers for visitors, with the aim to showcase our really special little part of New Zealand, and we have been very grateful to our local community and visitors alike who have come through and loved discovering Waimangu.
“During April we held a family cruise event on Lake Rotomahana, another one of our very popular Outdoor Movie Nights in the geothermal valley, and a special dawn ANZAC Day service which included part of the proceeds from breakfast going to the RSA by way of donation.”
Just in time for the school holidays, Steaming Cliffs Kayak was launched, a joint venture between Waimangu and Paddle Board Rotorua that allows visitors to visit the geothermally active Lake Rotomahana in two-person guided kayak tours.
Secret Spot Hot Tubs Rotorua, which officially opened its doors in December 2019 – just months before New Zealand closed its borders due to the pandemic – also enjoyed a very busy April.
General manager Keith Kolver said, “The weather played its part and everyone headed out to play. Three days after the Australian boarder opened we welcomed our first Aussie to Secret Spot, which marked the start of a new phase in the Covid journey.”
Four more frontline staff have been hired recently, and Keith and co-owner and brother Eric Kolver have plans to turn Secret Spot into an all-weather venue this winter, complete with bar, indoor seating and fire pit.
Early research by Tourism New Zealand showed that most people travelling from Australia would initially be coming to visit friends and relatives. We’re hopeful they’ll return again to New Zealand later in the year to tour and visit new places, old favourites, or those on their bucket lists.
“As we look towards a run into winter we hope that, in addition to more Kiwis discovering their own backyard, there might be a slow build in Australian visitors as we all gain confidence in how the trans-Tasman bubble might work,” David said.