City centre buzzing as visitors stream in

People enjoy the fare on offer in the Octagon on a busy Friday afternoon. Photo: Christine O'Connor
People enjoy the fare on offer in the Octagon on a busy Friday afternoon. Photo: Christine O'Connor
The past three days have been a boon for Dunedin’s hospitality and retail sectors as University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic graduands  and passengers from multiple cruise ships descended on the city amid pre-Christmas shoppers.

At times thousands of people thronged Dunedin’s central business district between Friday and yesterday, including passengers from  Ovation of the Seas, the largest visiting cruise ship with capacity for 5480 crew and passengers.

Many businesses rostered on extra staff, while parking in the central business district was at a premium and accommodation was tight.

City motels reported daily occupancy rates of more than  80% during the week and  many hit 100%.

Retailers and hospitality outlets are now gearing up for another double cruise ship day and the Shania Twain concert this Saturday. Manager of i-Site Dunedin visitor centre  Louise van de Vlierd said said there were  "streams" of visitors over the past three days.

"It’s been fantastic; we can’t get enough of this," she said.

To cope,  i-Site staffing was increased to 15 on Friday and yesterday, but fewer than 10 on Saturday,  a "graduates-only" day.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said retail spending was up around the city, but there was volatility in trading.

"Retailers are putting in long, hard hours to earn their share".

Those retailers were reporting "patchy" trading in recent months, from "good times through to very quiet".

"Bricks and mortar [retailers] are trying to maintain a foothold over online sales," he said.

In Lower Stuart St, owners of the Two Squirrels Vintage Emporium welcomed the mix of customers. Vanessa Hardy said there had been  "amazing energy in the city" over  the  three days, but also noted Monday’s trading had been "like midwinter".

She expected the combined Twain concert and cruise ships day would create a "perfect storm" for a  boost in trade.

Redcurrent manager Karen Dean-Collins, in Moray Pl, said sales were "tracking along well". Graduates, their families and passengers were boosting sales and  a recent discount day for customers had been successful.

Duty manager Alex Gale, at Mac’s Brew Bar in the Octagon, had rostered on extra staff, saying both day and evening trade had been "pretty hectic" and rivalled the week of three Ed Sheeran concerts at Easter.

"The past three days have been the busiest in a month," he said.

Octagon Market president Lorene Rosie said Friday’s 26 stallholders and yesterday’s 28  had benefited from the  good weather, but trade was more reliant on the cruise passengers than graduates, families and the public.


Im sorry, but, maybe I don't understand this. People in hospitality are meant to be thankful of cluster packed days and weeks where clearly no one thought, 'gosh, I wonder what the impact of 700 graduates and their families, along with 2000 plus ship visitors will have on restaurants and cafes'
I ask this, what if everyone in hospitality decided to strike this Friday, much like aircraft engineers and teachers? We certainly do not get paid anything like these people nor complain about our jobs as much, yet so much more is expected of us if sites like trip advisor are to be believed.