15 Jul 2021

More than half a million Kiwis booked flights for school holidays

8:21 am on 15 July 2021

New Zealanders are busy sharing the aroha - and tourist dollars - around the country during the winter school holidays.

South Island residents are waking up to a white blanket of snow as a cold blast works its way up the country.

Queenstown has been buzzing with activity for the school holidays. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Air New Zealand is calling these holidays their busiest July break ever with well over half a million New Zealanders booked in.

It follows disappointing Australian school holidays after travellers from New South Wales and Queensland were cut off by the bubble pause.

The Rees Hotel's chief executive, Mark Rose, said Queenstown was buzzing with activity.

"Town's busy. It's hard to get a reservation. There are traffic issues getting in and out of town, I guess going up the mountains and things so yes, there's definitely been a shot in the arm and there's definitely a buzz about the town, which is awesome."

It was a welcome change after losing more than 40 percent of all their July bookings within 17 days.

"First 10 days of July were horrific with the border closures because they were so driven by the Australian school holidays so we've had a bit of pick up. But not a lot. It's as expected and probably the same as it was for me in 2019."

More cancellations have started coming through for July and August after yesterday's extension of the Sydney lockdown for another two weeks.

But Rose said September was looking brighter as people were rebooking for later in the year.

Tekapo Springs was always busy in the July school holidays, and sales and marketing manager Andy Murray said this year was no exception.

"There's a really nice buzz on the ground and, whilst it's busy, it's not ... out of control so it's a nice manageable busy and if we make a comparison to last year, it is definitely on the slightly quieter side. But that's actually not a bad thing."

The vast majority of their business was geared towards New Zealanders over the winter break.

Further north, on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, a few thousand people have been sightseeing on the Sky Waka Gondola.

Whakapapa ski field area manager Steve Manunui said it was still early in the season.

"We've had awesome numbers and uptake since Saturday for the school holidays. Doing upwards of 1000 skiers and boarders on the slopes."

More than 95 percent of their market is domestic.

Skiiers on the Rockgarden at Whakapapa Ski Field, Mt Ruapehu in 2018.

Skiers on Whakapapa ski field. Photo: Natalia Catalina / 123RF

He was expecting the season to ramp up later this month when mother nature delivered more snow.

Across the island on the east coast, Jock Walker from Tipuna Tours was seeing more visitors at Tolaga Bay.

"Up until the school holidays, we've noticed that there's been considerable motorhome traffic ... but during the school holidays that traffic has increased."

Tourism operators are welcoming New Zealand visitors with open arms, relieved to see new faces walking through their doors.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs