North Canterbury tourist towns enjoy Christmas boom

5:27 pm on 12 January 2023

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

A diver in the water next to a boat.

North Canterbury's tourist towns are enjoying a summer holiday boom. Photo: Fiona Wardle Photography

North Canterbury's tourist towns are enjoying a summer holiday boom.

Kaikōura and Hanmer Springs enjoyed a busy Christmas holiday period as tourists returned in large numbers, after more than two years of Covid-19 disruptions.

''There has been people everywhere and the roads are hellishly busy,'' Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle said.

Hurunui Mayor Marie Black said there had been strong interest in the alpine town of Hanmer Springs during the holiday period.

Destination Kaikōura manager Lisa Bond said Kaikōura was booming, but staff recruitment remained a challenge.

''It has been fantastic to see 'no vacancy' signs around town over the Christmas / New Year Holiday period.

''I have spoken with a few local businesses who have been very busy with both domestic and international visitors during this period, which is great to see.''

Staff recruitment has been challenging in accommodation, activities, retail and hospitality, leaving many to put in some long hours, she said.

Destination Kaikōura chairperson Lynette Buurman said it was good to see the town so busy, after a difficult few years.

But the weather was not playing ball for on-the-water operators, with Encounter Kaikōura among those impacted.

''The sea conditions and the weather have worked against us and we have had a lot of swells and northeasterly winds, so we haven't been able to do our full charters.''

The operators were pleased to welcome the cruise ship Le Laperouse on Sunday, 8 January.

With plenty more cruise ship visits planned over the next few months, Buurman was feeling optimistic for the future.

''It's good to see cruise ships coming back and we are very grateful tourists still see New Zealand as a destination,'' she said.

Tourists were starting to return in good numbers from the traditional markets, including Australia, Singapore, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Domestic visitors to Kaikōura continued to be strong, Buurman said.

''We have been reliant on overseas visitors in the past, but there has been a change in focus with Covid and we have been really grateful for the support.''

A diver poses with marine life.

Tourists are flocking back to Kaikōura to experience the marine environment, when the weather allows. Photo: Fiona Wardle Photography

Hurunui Tourism product development manager Graeme Abbot said the town's tourism operators were relieved to be operating without any restrictions.

Visitor numbers to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa over the Christmas holiday period were 11 percent up on last year.

''January the 2nd was our busiest day, but it has been steady every day of the week.''

The pools had been able to recruit university students and some international visitors, ensuring there were enough staff to get through, Abbot said.

Tourists were returning to Hanmer Springs from Australia, Southeast Asia and the United States.

The town was also enjoying an influx of visitors from cruise ships visiting Lyttelton.

While he had not had time to speak to other operators, anecdotal evidence suggested the town was booming.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs