Big tourist summer heating up

By Genevieve Helliwell

One year on from the Rena disaster, visitors are booking out accomodation in the region for the festive season.

With less than six weeks until Christmas and seven until New Year, many camping grounds and motels are already booked to capacity.

"We are completely full over the New Year period," said Mark Hales, manager of the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park.

"Confidence has certainly returned, no one even mentions the Rena now."

The iconic beachfront holiday park has 234 camping sites and seven cabins - all of which are booked over New Year.

"Eighty per cent are domestic [visitors] and 20 per cent are international, that varies from month to month, but we do see quite a spread of guests," he said.

But getting a spot in the Beachside Holiday Park over New Year is almost impossible - unless you've camped there before.

"The way we do it is by history. The people who stay here year after year, they get their booking," he said.

Some families have been camping there for almost 60 years.

Tauranga Motel Association president Gail Fagan said her business, the Bay Palm Motel in Mount Maunganui, was looking positive over the festive season with all but one room booked out.

This was different from a year ago, when many people cancelled their bookings because of the grounding of the cargo ship Rena on Astrolabe Reef. "Last year there were a lot of bookings but then there were a lot of cancellations, but in saying that some motels had bookings because of the Rena."

Generally speaking, the mood across the wider accommodation sector had improved in the past 12 months, she said.

"The weather forecast has indicated it will be a long, hot summer so we're all looking forward to it."

From a tourism perspective, the mood had also picked up, said Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Rhys Arrowsmith.

"Everything is looking constant, as it was prior to Rena," he said. "Some places even have a waiting list where they want to holiday somewhere but they can't get a spot ... so that's fantastic news."

Most of the calls were coming from holidaymakers in Auckland and Waikato, but an increasing number were coming from China and India, as well as Australia.

"People tend to book later but, in saying that, everyone seems quietly confident. I'm most certainly looking forward to a good summer and we're poised to have a fantastic year ahead.

Meanwhile, Tauranga City Council are hosting a family-friendly New Year celebration at the Mount Main Beach.

Confirmed bands set to play on the two stages are Nine Mile Stone, The Generators and The Gramophones, with Triple J and DJ Brutus Powers on the beach stage throughout the night.

On New Year's Eve, a Park n Ride service will operate from the old Mount Cosmopolitan Club off Kawaka Street. This is a new location closer to the event zone and there will be security onsite.

Buses will also transport revellers from other areas of Tauranga to the event zone.

Leading up to the big event, summer ambassadors will be on the beach, providing information and free giveaways..

- Bay of Plenty Times

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