Over 150 tourism operators met in Greymouth today to prepare for the “bumper” season ahead

NEWS 📰 162 per cent uptake in visitors on the West Coast as one of many signs that tourism is on the rise 

Increasing domestic and international tourist numbers, and visitor spending surpassing pre-pandemic levels last month are just a few signs that tourism is on the rise again. Over 150 operators from around the country gathered today in Greymouth for the West Coast Tourism Summit, full of hope for the summer season ahead.

 

Today’s inaugural Manaakitanga ki te Tai Poutini Hui, West Coast Tourism Summit was the first in several years and saw 150 tourism operators from across Aotearoa attend; the biggest turn-out in the Summit’s history. Attendees were buzzing for what is set to be a bumper season. The event hosted speakers, including representatives for Air New Zealand, KiwiRail, Hospitality New Zealand, Tourism Industry Association Aotearoa, and the Department of Conservation.

 

“We’re preparing ourselves for an energetic summer season,” says Development West Coast’s (DWC) Tourism Manager, Patrick Dault. “The hui provided industry peers the opportunity to reconnect after a two-year hiatus and collectively determine how we’re going to propel the industry into the future.”

The West Coast region was hit hard by the pandemic and international border closures, with total visitor spend in Glacier Country down 70 per cent from pre-pandemic times. Today, local operators are hopeful for the future, with figures from DWC’s latest Visitor Trends Report revealing international visitor numbers and spending on the Coast have been steadily rising since New Zealand’s borders opened on July 31st.

 

Average daily international visitors on the Coast in September 2022 numbered 306, an uptake of 162 per cent from the previous year. International visitor spending also increased, rising from $292,060 in October 2021 to $4,120,000 in October 2022 – a 173.5 per cent increase.

 

Domestic and international visitor spending on the West Coast surpassed pre-pandemic levels last month, increasing $1.43 million from October 2019.

Today’s conference was not only visited by local operators, but national tourism players from across the country making their way down to the West Coast.

 

Paul Button, General Manager at Rotorua Canopy Tours, says “Today’s conference has really launched excitement for the upcoming summer months. We are already tracking to reach a 20 per cent increase of pre-Covid visitation levels, and the conference has been great so far in terms of discussing new ways to prepare for this expected wave of tourists, including sustainable tourism, the importance of conservation and leading with a strong brand.”

 

Karl Luxon, Scenic Hotel Group Chief Executive, said Scenic Hotels has a 40+ year history on the Coast, making significant investments not just in their assets, but in West Coast communities. “The hui has been a great opportunity for the industry to get together and for new ideas to emerge. It is important that the industry innovates and collaborates.”

 

Apart from discussing reports confirming that tourism is on the rise in New Zealand, the aim for the hui was to identify what makes the West Coast specifically a unique region and how to achieve greater regional and national collaboration, facilitating positive outcomes for all. DWC unveiled its long-awaited Destination Management Plan (DMP), an ambitious proposal tackling the future of tourism, giving voice to communities and defining priority projects for the region.

 

“We’re not going back to operating the way we did before the borders closed,” says Dault. “We’re looking to reinvent tourism on the Coast to be more sustainable and challenge the industry in Aotearoa to do the same.”

 

The DMP delves into a variety of spheres in the industry, from food tourism, wellness, sustainability, regenerative tourism, and a push towards greater alignment in industry, local government and entities on the Coast. Innovation in the tourism sector, workforce development and operator resilience are also highlighted as key areas of focus.

 

According to a further report carried out by DWC on Understanding Domestic Perceptions of the West Coast, visitors to the region often attribute the motivations for their visit to wanting to get off the beaten track. Increasingly, holiday-goers are looking to escape the hustle and bustle, and feel physically and mentally transported from the routine experiences of daily life. Of the people surveyed for the report, 35 per cent had never been to the Coast, and 60 per cent had been before and wanted to return.

 

“Those percentages present great opportunities. Before Covid-19 hit, the appetite for tourism on the Coast had been increasing year on year, and we’re ready to start where we left off. This summer is set to be one of our best yet. The West Coast is readying itself to be one of New Zealand’s top tourism destinations,” says Dault.

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