Southern tourism on the up and up

A tourist photographs Milford Sound earlier this year. Photo by Allison Beckham.
A tourist photographs Milford Sound earlier this year. Photo by Allison Beckham.

After a few leaner years, tourism is starting to boom in the South.

Official figures show the number of domestic and international visitors to Southland and Fiordland has climbed steadily over the past two years and soared during the first three months of this year.

In January, guest nights in Southland topped 50,000 for the first time since 2010 and maintained that level in February and March.

Guest nights in Fiordland reached 90,257 in January - 12,423 more than in January last year - dropping back to 83,072 in February before rising to a monthly record of 91,591 in March.

After booming in the mid-2000s, accommodation providers experienced leaner times during the global financial crisis, Venture Southland tourism and events manager Warrick Low said.

"Hopefully, the lean times are over. The minimum forecast is for a 4% increase in tourism annually until 2021, and we think that is conservative.''

Mr Low said the official figures were also conservative, as they did not include "air b&b'' guests, who found rooms to rent through the internet, or visitors who stayed with family and friends. Some accommodation providers also did not contribute to the statistics, he said.

Air b&b was a growing trend in Southland, he said. By keeping tabs on internet listings, Mr Low said he had counted more than 220 available rooms in Southland and Queenstown Lakes, most in Queenstown but more than 50 in Invercargill and several in Riverton and the Catlins.

It was possible as many as 35% of tourists did not show up on the official figures, he said.

"But they are a very good indicator. Whatever way you look at it, we have experienced huge growth ... in the past couple of years. The North American tourists are returning and there is buoyancy in the domestic market.''


Guest night trends

2011: 403,7132012
2012: 374,2912013
2013: 425,3372014
2014: 490,7662015
2015: 536,095

2011: 392,6922012
2012: 375,5772013
2013: 367,5882014
2014: 389,4632015
2015: 407,882

Source: Venture Southland



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