Tourism bounces back to life

By Genevieve Helliwell

Tourist numbers, which took a dip in 2012 following the Rena grounding and extreme wet weather, rebounded last summer to the relief of moteliers.

Latest Statistics New Zealand accommodation figures show the number of guest nights in the Bay of Plenty jumped by almost 20 per cent to 312,000 in March this year compared to March 2012.

In the first quarter of this year, guest nights were up 86,000 compared to the first quarter of 2012.

Tauranga Motel Association president Gail Fagan told the Bay of Plenty Times fine and sunny weather resulted in more guests.

"I would say 99 per cent of people would say it was definitely better than last year."

"I think overall most motel and accommodation providers in the area had a reasonably successful holiday season."

Colonial Court owner Kris Stamatakos said January had been a good month, but February and March had been "outstanding".

April had been a mixed bag, with some moteliers down on the same time last year. Mrs Fagan agreed but said overall the mood within the industry was positive, he said.

"Things are looking up. Personally, I'm seeing an upturn in future bookings and I hope that this will follow through this year and into the next season."

The figures showed occupancy rates of Bay motels was about the same in March 2013 (55.5 per cent) and March 2012 (53.9 per cent).

Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said he was pleased with the numbers. "This is evident, particularly in February and March, where the region had an average of 14 per cent increase on the same period last year."

The average number of guest nights in New Zealand during February and March showed a 12.2 per cent increase but the Bay of Plenty region outperformed the average by 29.4 per cent.

"The increase is very encouraging, particularly after the challenges of Rena, the global financial crisis, exchange rates and bad weather. The region still has plenty of scope to perform better and we look forward building this region into the fourth most popular destination in New Zealand."

Meanwhile, the boost in tourism numbers this summer did not flow into the hospitality sector, said industry expert Alan Sciascia.

The Hospitality New Zealand Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional manager said it had been a better summer than the previous one, but not necessarily because of higher tourist numbers. "Even though there may have been a few more people in town, this wasn't felt across the board," he said.

"People are still careful about how and where they spend, and that's the same with customers everywhere."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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