Region gears up for tourist rush

Photo: Getty Images
The Year of the Dog starts tomorrow. Image: Getty
Otago is preparing for a huge influx of tourists as Chinese New Year bolsters an already busy tourism scene.

Several thousand Chinese visitors are expected to arrive in the Queenstown Lakes district in the next fortnight as the Chinese New Year coincides with the district's busiest month for tourists for the fourth year in a row.

The Year of the Dog starts tomorrow, marking the beginning of a festive season that will continue for a fortnight.

The number of visitors spending their Chinese New Year holiday in the district is expected to be on a par with last year, when it levelled off after several years of double-digit growth.

For mainland Chinese, today's Spring Festival Eve is the first day of a week of national or local holidays.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said all indicators showed it would be another ''robust'' Chinese New Year period for the resort's tourism operators and accommodation providers.

Wanaka is also preparing for yet another massive influx of visitors this weekend, as Chinese New Year and Challenge Wanaka collide.

Those looking for a last-minute adventure may have to be quick.

Eco Adventures Wanaka said it had no space available on any of its tours at the weekend.

Visitors would still be able to get a spot at Skydive Wanaka, which said there were a limited number of bookings remaining.

On Saturday, Challenge Wanaka plays host to 2600 athletes, and thousands of family members and support crew will take over the resort town this weekend.

Wanaka i-Site confirmed all accommodation in the town had been booked due to both events, and a quick browse of hotel booking website Expedia tells a similar story.

Accommodation is also tight in Queenstown.

Novotel Queenstown Lakeside general manager Jim Moore said Chinese New Year came during a busy time of year anyway.

''There aren't too many rooms around at the moment.

''What we are saying to people is, if you want to come at this time of year, book early.''

He expected a continuation of the trend of the past couple of years in which Chinese visitors had ''spread out'' across the region and group operators struggled to find rooms in the resort.

''Unless they book early, they sometimes miss out and go to other places like Te Anau and Wanaka.''

Sofitel Queenstown manager Jeremy Samuels said hotel rooms would be available ''here and there'' in the resort during the holiday period, but advised people thinking of visiting over the next fortnight to be ''flexible''.

By delaying their travel for a week or two, they could benefit from greater availability and lower room rates.

However, the displays of red around the town centre and festive food and beverage offerings made for an ''animating and exciting experience'' for everyone.

There had been steadily rising demand from the Chinese middle class in the past five to 10 years.

Chinese New Year is an increasingly important event for the Waitaki district, which is also benefiting from the number of Chinese tourists in the country at this time.

Tourism Waitaki events co-ordinator Lucianne White said, over the past few years, the number of Chinese visitors during the New Year period had increased. It was also an important tourism time for the area generally.

There will be a family-oriented New Year celebration on Saturday in the Oamaru Public Gardens to mark the season.

In Dunedin, i-Site visitor centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said the whole of the lower South Island, from the West Coast to Dunedin, was busy.

However, there was still accommodation available in Dunedin, despite the Robbie Williams concert this weekend.

Add a Comment