Tourism boss' plea for caution

By Sandra Conchie

A local tourist operator says more work is needed to attract additional overseas visitors - despite a report showing visitor numbers to key Bay attractions are up almost 17 per cent.

The Tourism Bay of Plenty Attraction Monitor report shows visitor numbers were up 16.8 per cent at the attractions for the six months to the end of April, compared to the same period last year.

The eight tourism businesses involved in the monitor are Aerius Helicopters, Blokart International, Classic Flyers, Comvita Visitors Centre, Kiwi 360, Springloaded, Waimarino and White Island Tours.

Visits from domestic tourists rose 17.3 per cent, with big increases in visitors from Gisborne/Hawke's Bay (almost 41 per cent), Auckland/Northland (31.2 per cent), Rotorua (30.5 per cent) and from Tauranga residents 23.6 per cent. International visits were up 5.8 per cent.

Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said the figures reflected a buoyant summer season which saw guest nights jump almost 20 per cent in March, up 86,000 from the first quarter of 2012.

"With the continued growth of the cruise sector and new initiatives announced last week to promote the region, there is a feeling of optimism among tourist operators," he said.

Graeme Crossman, managing director of Kiwifruit 360, said domestic visitors to his business remained steady when compared to last year.

"However, overall international free traveller numbers continue to decline, and the report shows over half of our domestic visitors live in Tauranga," he said.

Mr Crossman said the visitor numbers were also bolstered by the cruise ship market.

"It's a great report but the reality is that a lot more work needs to be done to attract far more international free travellers to come and stay to ensure local tourism businesses remain viable," he said.

Waimarino Adventure Park office manager Charlotte Anderson said park visitor numbers were up about 5000 on the same period the previous year.

"We are really happy with patronage over the summer season which does have a domino affect in terms of accommodation and people wanting to stay in the region," she said.

Fat Boy Charters owner Russ Hawkins said the past six months had been far busier than the previous year when he lost up to 50 per cent of his trade due to the Rena disaster and poor weather conditions.

"I have not quite turned things around yet but I'm back up to about 80 per cent capacity, and I'm very happy because I'm also getting a lot of repeat business, and some booking for July and August which is usually our quietest period of the year," he said.

Mr Arrowsmith said Tourism Bay of Plenty in Tauranga had been confirmed as the venue for the Coasts and Ports Conference 2015.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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