Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Lions tour putting pressure on NZ hotels

The Barmy Army followed the Lions in 2005 and is set to return next year. Photo / NZME
The Barmy Army followed the Lions in 2005 and is set to return next year. Photo / NZME

Demand for lavish packages to big British and Irish Lions games next year is ramping up gradually but demand for accommodation at major venues is running hot.

All Blacks Hospitality has exclusive rights to sell the packages ranging from just on $500 to $1600 in New Zealand and around the world, excluding Britain, and says fans are "taking their time" as a ballot for public tickets is still running.

However, chief executive Warren Barclay said his firm had noted strong demand for accommodation in Wellington and Auckland in particular around the three test matches next June and July.

About 20,000 Lions supporters are expected to travel to New Zealand and much of the accommodation had already been snapped up by the British based Lions tour company following the team's visit to Australia three years ago.

"After the 2013 tour their operational team jumped the ditch and started.

With the booming tourism some nights you're struggling to get a reasonable hotel room anyway," he said.

"New Zealand will always be under the cosh with regards to infrastructure. One thing is that the Lions have had a fair lick at important infrastructure, particularly at venues and accommodation and transportation."

British-based Lionstours.com is offering trips stretching for up to 39 days that can cost more than $25,000 and it says 75 per cent of packages have sold.

All Blacks Hospitality will be allocated between 20,000 and 30,000 packages and Barclay said last week about 4000 had been sold.

"It hasn't boomed but we never expected it to. People are taking their time, particularly the regular ones."

He said there had been interest from Asia, Dubai and Australia from expat Kiwis for the GST exclusive packages which depending on the price include tickets, food, beverages and guest speakers.

Barclay said home rental services such as Airbnb could fill the accommodation shortfall.

"It will be interesting to see how it goes. We worked a lot with a couple of savvy operators of luxury rentals in 2011 (for the Rugby World Cup) and they did pretty well out of it .

Airbnb wasn't up and running at that point. I'm hoping that something like that will work really well and take a bit of the sting out of it."

There are about 16,000 Airbnb hosts in New Zealand and Barclay said money was not much of a problem for wealthy rugby tourists who wanted good-quality accommodation.

The influx of Lions supporters will come at a good time, according to Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts.

There were signs that the Brexit vote which dented economic confidence in Britain was starting to have some impact on that market.

A Lions tour - which happens once every 12 years - would be an incentive for the high spending free and independent travellers from Britain to come to this country.

While there would be strain on accommodation at test venues in particular, other regions outside the main centres would do well out of the tour, he said.

Already Chateau Tongariro was reporting good bookings from Lions fans.

2005 tour a big earner

While the 2005 British and Irish Lions failed on the field, spending by their fans exceeded expectations, ploughing more than $120 million into the economy.

The report, by independent consultancy Covec, reveals the Lions tour was worth twice that of the combined America's Cup defences in 2000 and 2003.

The nation's economy felt the benefit to the tune of $135m. Of that, the international fans accounted for $123m and New Zealand fans for $12m.

More than 20,000 fans arrived in New Zealand for the tour of 11 matches in six weeks.
Similar numbers are expected next year for the 10-match tour.

- NZ Herald

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