Tourist operators in Nelson say they have not been affected like other areas by the wild weather and are cautiously optimistic about warmer months ahead.
However, the sector still faces challenges as it faces staff shortages, reduced flight availability and other pandemic-related disruptions.
Nelson Regional Development Agency visitor destination manager Tracee Neilson said the big problem on the ground was the continued labor shortage.
Neilson said the hotel industry was really struggling and the Rutherford Hotel was “desperate for the staff”.
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Some top southern operators had started looking overseas in an attempt to lure people into their businesses over the summer.
And they had to reduce the number of products available to tourists as a result.
“We talk to our operators and say, ‘What is your minimum viable product that you will offer?’ Many of them now have to say for the summer we don’t have 16 kayak options, we only have half day, or full day, or overnight, because labor shortage work is real.
However, Nelson’s operators were “resilient and philosophical” and summer bookings in the area were “actually surprisingly good with internationals”.
Visitors came from North America, particularly from the luxury sector, she said.
Places like Owen River Lodge, a luxury fishing lodge south of Nelson, and Split Apple Retreat near the Abel Tasman were “practically booked for the summer with internationals”.
Internationals were also already having an impact on business.
Neilson said a few days ago that the Rutherford Street YHA had 20 German students, as well as Spanish, North American and Indonesian visitors, which “fully supported the hostel.”
Wilsons Abel Tasman CEO Darryl Wilson said the winter holidays were an “unstable time of year” so the company had reduced the size of its ships and the frequency of trips and given most of its key personnel during school holidays.
“These vacations are still marginally viable,” he said.
“The reality is that if it’s raining, people aren’t so inclined to go out anyway, whether it’s 10 millimeters of rain a day or 30.”
In terms of international visitors, the numbers were coming “in a trickle”, but it was “tiny at the moment”, in terms of actual feet on the pitch in the area.
As for forward bookings from September, Wilsons has seen positive international interest, with the only restrictions being “fare availability and the ever-present risk of international flight cancellations”.
“We always see tourism as a plumbing exercise, you have to have a supply, and currently the pipes supplying New Zealand, each of the airlines, are limited. There are a lot of problems as airlines grow, and it will take some time before they regain the capabilities they had.
However, there did not appear to be a slowdown in demand from Kiwis wishing to travel to the country.
“There is talk of recession and various other things, but if anything it will probably make more people say in New Zealand rather than overseas where they traditionally holiday.”
Waka Abel Tasman, owner-operator Lee-Anne Jago (Ngāti Māhuta, Ngāti Pou, Ngāti Raukawa) said she had a growing demand from high-end agents, booking trips for families and couples, which she described as “not traveling on a budget”. at all”.
They offered more tailor-made trips, which helped fund local kids to get out on the water themselves.
“People really want to engage with Maori culture and want to know the things that underlie the culture, our relationship with each other and the environment,” she said.
Cable Bay Adventure Park owner Richard Ussher has recently welcomed visitors from Australia, the United States and Europe.
“We’ve seen a few internationals come through already which is really promising,” he said.
“We are cautiously optimistic.”