Cautious optimism ahead of bubble

Monarch Cruises and Tours are among local tourism businesses who are feeling positive about the...
Monarch Cruises and Tours are among local tourism businesses who are feeling positive about the opening up of the transtasman travel bubble from this weekend. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The announcement of quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia from 11.59pm on Sunday has been greeted with relief and excitement by tourism operators across the country.

The Star reporters Brenda Harwood and Jessica Wilson asked Dunedin businesses and organisations for their thoughts on the move, and what they are hoping for from the transtasman bubble.

Although local tourism operators are not expecting a huge initial surge of visitors from Australia, hopes are high for long-term gains from the transtasman bubble.

Monarch Cruises and Tours co-owner Neil Harraway said the business was "ready to go" and looking forward to welcoming visitors.

"We are not expecting a huge surge for a start, as we think most of the first wave of visitors will head for Queenstown and the skifields," Mr Harraway said.

"However, hopefully we will get some overflow, and also people coming across to visit friends and family."

Monarch Cruises and Tours was working closely with Australian bus-tour company AAT Kings on group tours, and the return of cruise ships would help, he said.

"Initially, I think the potential growth in demand for travel will be tempered by people who are feeling cautious about travelling due to the pandemic.

"But, looking ahead to summer, we are hopeful that the vaccination programmes around the world will open up tourism more.

"Given our handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, New Zealand will be viewed as a safe place to visit, which is very valuable.

"And events like the upcoming Wild Dunedin Festival help to encourage locals and Kiwis to get out and take tours, which is much appreciated," Mr Harraway said.

Larnach Castle director Norcombe Barker welcomes the transtasman bubble, but is also concerned...
Larnach Castle director Norcombe Barker welcomes the transtasman bubble, but is also concerned national visitors may go to Australia instead. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Otago Peninsula Trust ecotourism manager Hoani Langsbury said the travel bubble had potential to increase the number of visitors to the Royal Albatross Centre.

While Australian tourists could become 30% of the centre’s visitors, this could be at the expense of the 60% of domestic tourists they were currently seeing from the North Island, Mr Langsbury.

"I am polishing my crystal egg and waiting to see what happens."

Otago Motel Association president Alex Greenan said it was difficult to gauge what the result of the transtasman bubble would be in Dunedin.

"People will mostly be flying in at Queenstown and Christchurch, so while we are expecting some sort of overflow, it is hard to predict," Mr Greenan said.

The past couple of months had been exciting for local moteliers, with domestic and corporate visitors helping the industry to bounce back.

"We are not to pre-Covid levels, but things have been going very well," he said.

Although Larnach Castle director Norcombe Barker was pleased at the announcement, there were still some uncertainties.

"It’s really exciting because it’s been a long time since we locked down so having this first step on the road to recovery was just fantastic," Mr Barker said.

"I do worry for us in Dunedin because Aucklanders who may have been coming down . . . for the holidays might go to the Gold Coast instead."

Winter was typically a quiet season at the castle, so any more guests than normal would be good.

However, not knowing if there would be extra visitors made it difficult when it came to staffing levels and logistics.

Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie welcomed the news, saying after more than a year of uncertainty the prospect of once again hosting Australian visitors in the city offered a ray of hope.

"Much thinking and planning has been done behind the scenes about how we might best leverage this opportunity in conjunction with the work Tourism New Zealand will be undertaking," Mr Christie said.

"It’s expected that the first swathe of visitors to New Zealand will most likely be visiting friends and relatives, so we’re keen to encourage our locals and Kiwis from other parts of New Zealand to act as ‘guides’ and recommend some of our fantastic attractions and experiences.

"We’re cautiously optimistic about the anticipated initial flow of Australian visitors into Dunedin and will be promoting the city as a must-see inclusion within a wider lower South Island itinerary," Mr Christie said.

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