31 Jan 2022

Subdued long weekend for many Northland businesses

6:05 pm on 31 January 2022

Te Tai Tokerau tourism and hospitality businesses are reporting a quieter Auckland Anniversary weekend than most.

Quiet bars at Whangārei's town basin.

Quiet bars at Whangārei's town basin. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Olley

Two suspected Omicron cases in the region connected to the Soundsplash music festival have sparked some nervousness for locals and visitors alike.

Jetson Group owner Lloyd Rooney has three restaurants in Whangārei, Waipū and another in Mangawhai.

"The two by the coast have definitely seen the same sort of trade, or level of trade, as last year but the three in Whangārei are definitely far quieter than last year," he told RNZ.

"I think that people are being slightly cautious. I had a customer yesterday who wanted to sit at certain tables because they had concerns about Omicron, so those tables were well ventilated at the front of the restaurant."

Clapham's National Clock Museum saw a slight lift out of the lull, in the long weekend.

Senior assistant Denise Scott said it was mostly Aucklanders visiting.

"But Auckland is usually our biggest market anyway, so we are delighted to see them back."

She said overseas tourists used to bring a long, busy season.

"But because people can't come in from overseas it has been really compressed into those main holiday periods."

Pre-pandemic, domestic tourists splurged $1.1 billion in Te Tai Tokerau a year, and Aucklanders spent 60 percent of this.

But the anniversary weekend has not made much difference for Finnesse Kairau (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Pāoa) who runs Tame the Beast Tours with Harley-Davidson motorbikes and classic cars.

"Someone who has travelled from Auckland to here, two hours to get Whangārei, they've got to travel back. So it's time. So I would get more from who can spend a lot longer here."

For her, it is the school holidays and Christmas that make a difference and she is hoping that will get her through, until overseas tourists return.

"We have to keep the face, because we are the first ones that our tourists see, and we introduce them to our regions. So we have to, somehow, keep that smile on."

Northland still needs to vaccinate 500 more people aged 12 and over to meet the 90 percent first doses target.

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