Holidaymakers bring a welcome boost for West Coast firms

Hikers on a bridge along Fox River overlooking Fox Glacier on the West Coast. Photo: Getty Images
Hikers on a bridge along Fox River overlooking Fox Glacier on the West Coast. Photo: Getty Images
Domestic tourists have been filling the West Coast’s cafes, accommodation and roads from Karamea to Haast — and businesses are loving it.

Karamea Information Centre information officer Liz Volckman said travellers and families, mainly from the South Island’s east coast, Nelson/Tasman and Christchurch, had started to arrive after Christmas.

"We are extremely busy through to after New Year, with a lot of people looking for somewhere to stay with a lot of our accommodation fully booked," she said last week.

"We are not as busy as last year, when a lot of people were travelling here for the first time. Now families are coming back."

She estimated the peak would last until the end of this week, as most people were due back at work on January 10.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine last week said the district was pumping with carloads of families towing caravans and boats, or bearing bikes.

"The Reefton Trots are on, there is a huge crowd and it’s a beautiful day. We came up Broadway an hour before the races and there were people up and down the street.

"On the Buller Gorge there were caravans and boats and I have heard there are streams of caravans heading north to Karamea. Businesses need this to keep everyone going."

More tourists have been walking Hokitika’s streets in the past fortnight and, although numbers are not on par with pre-Covid times, walk-ins and sales have increased in some businesses.

Monique Kingipoiti, of Possum People, said the business had seen a 25% increase in sales, although its mainstay remained online sales.

Kevin Stevenson, of Hokitika Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels, said the operation was flat out with domestic tourists.

"The month ahead is booked fairly solid and the phone is ringing constantly. There hasn’t been a lot of Aucklanders, but there are quite a few from the North Island and a lot from the South."

Mr Stevenson said the camp’s units were fully booked and only a few powered sites and tent sites remained over coming days.

Glacier Country Tourism chairman Rob Jewell said he had been surprised at the number of national visitors who were out and travelling, staying and spending.

While it was nowhere near pre-Covid levels, the holiday boon was a shot in the arm for Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.

"‘Certainly this holiday period is going very well."

Holidaymakers had made it to Haast where Tania Frisby, of the town’s promotions association, said accommodation bookings were good, but tended to drop off after January 10.

"We are doing OK. There are a lot of campers around checking out the West Coast and some are staying two or three days.

"Families are going on nature walks and trips — it’s a boost for our tourism businesses.

"We will take what we get."

The Coast’s southernmost town welcomed the new year with bonfires on the beach and a band at the Hard Antler Bar.

— Helen Murdoch

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