2 Nov 2016

Boom could spell the end of the tourism shoulder season

8:31 am on 2 November 2016

The days of the tourism shoulder season could be over, industry operators and leaders say, as the number of visitors to New Zealand continues to climb.

Queenstown gondola

The tourism sector is booming Queenstown and throughout the country. Photo: RNZ / Peter Newport

Last year 3.4 million overseas visitors came to New Zealand, and at the current rate of growth that will double in seven years.

While operators said there was no better time to be in the tourism industry, it may mean New Zealand holidaymakers need to book ahead further than usual.

Wayne Perkins has been operating boats on Lake Wakatipu since 1982 and has co-owned the Million Dollar Cruise with his wife Betty, since 2007.

He said when he first started in the tourism industry, 35 years ago, there were definite shoulder seasons, now there was not.

He said business was booming, and with a 62 percent increase on this time last year, it was the perfect time to be in the tourist industry.

"We're absolutely full, accommodation-wise over the summer months right from about early December through the middle of March," Mr Perkins said.

"It's very difficult to get accommodation in Queenstown. That has the effect of pushing potential visitors to Queenstown into the spring and autumn periods."

Scenic view of Lake Wakatipu with Southern Alps in background near Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand.

Lake Wakatipu with Southern Alps in background near Queenstown. Photo: 123RF

Mr Perkin said about 40 percent of his customers were domestic tourists.

And he said the market was changing, with both domestic and international tourists realising they needed to book ahead.

"Our website [traffic] has quadrupled over the last few years and the forward bookings that have come from it as a result have increased quite dramatically."

Kevin Bowler signed off after seven years as chief executive of Tourism New Zealand on Friday.

He said with no end in sight to the tourism boom, the industry was working towards building demand in spring and autumn months.

"One of the things that Tourism New Zealand is doing is investing all of our marketing effort into encouraging travel in the shoulder where we have a lot more capacity.''

He said people needed to book in advance if they had places they particularly wanted to stay and dates they wanted to travel.

The Tourism Industry Association's Canterbury hotels sector chairperson, Bruce Garrett, said New Zealand holidaymakers were still leaving it to the last minute to book the holidays and were finding that they could not always get what they wanted.

"I guess people should be thinking about [it] but haven't quite cottoned on to that."

He said in the short term there may be some pressure points, but in the long term it should ease with more hotel rooms opening up.

"The good thing is that it's causing people to look at alternative destinations and explore places they may not have otherwise seen," Mr Garrett said.

And yesterday the Holiday Accommodation Parks Association of New Zealand said it was preparing for what would be their busiest ever summer season, with events such as the World Masters Games, and the British and Irish Lions tour.

It urged New Zealanders to book ahead.

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