5 Jul 2020

Waitomo businesses launch website to promote area

5:45 pm on 5 July 2020

By Riley Kennedy

A group of small tourism operators in Waitomo has banded together to launch its own website promoting the area.

No caption.

Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles

The North Island township is famous for its glow worm caves and adventure activities but has been hard hit by plummeting tourist numbers.

Richard Garthwaite and his wife Lynette own local B&B, Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge.

He said the new website pulls together all of the area's attractions.

Before Covid-19 took hold, Waitomo would attract about 600,000 visitors a year.

The King Country township is far quieter now and is keen to show that it is open for business.

Waitomo Museum director Bridget Mosley said New Zealanders are paying a visit.

"If there is one message we need to get out to New Zealanders, it's that there is a lot more to do here than just the caves," she said.

Abi Rawles, owner of the Huhu Café

Abi Rawles, owner of the Huhu Café Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles

Discovery Waitomo is running its well known glow worm cave tours from Thursday to Sunday.

A smaller operator, Spellbound Glow worm and Cave Tours, has taken advantage of that and is operating a special weekday tour.

Owner Peter Chandler said it is tough without the high spending tourist.

"We are traditionally 90 percent overseas visitors so we have taken a hit," he said.

"We opened back up about Queen's Birthday weekend and we've been really impressed with the trickle of New Zealand tourists."

Abi Rawles, who owns Waitomo's Huhu Cafe, said business is down about 35 percent on this time last year but the weekends make up for the slow weekdays.

"The village is absolutely cranking Thursday to Sunday and then it falls away again," she said.

"Sunday lunch time is really good for us.

"We have been running specials in the week days to get people out from the local areas."

Waitomo's small tourism operators are looking forward to the school holidays starting on 6 July.

Garthwaite said that the bookings are looking promising.

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