Northland summer visitors numbers increase

By Mike Dinsdale

Predictions of foul weather have not deterred visitors flocking to Northland, with ``no vacancy'' signs up across the district and tourism operators rubbing their hands in glee, a tourism leader says.

Northland was supposed to get up to two batterings from the weather these holidays - first from ex-Tropical Cyclone Evan over Christmas then the remnants from Cyclone Freda at the end of this week.

Northland Tourism Development Group chairman and Whangarei district councillor Jeroen Jongejans said Evan did not deliver the deluge predicted and Freda was now heading towards Australia.

The influx and extra business was good for the region, especially after last summer holidays were a write-off for many due to bad weather, Mr Jongejans said.

``Evan did bring a bit, but it was before Christmas and since then people have been coming out to enjoy the sun.

It's fantastic, with some nice sunny days, so those weather warnings haven't deterred people.''

He said Dive Tutukaka, which he runs with partner Kate Malcolm, was fully booked for many trips and other operators were reporting similar booking levels.

``It's a great relief for everybody. There are more people around and they seem to be very happy with things, so it's positive for the tourism industry.''

Mr Jongejans said New Year's Eve was a big night for the industry, with traditional visitors spots reporting solid numbers. Taupo Bay Camping Ground owner Joe Rogers said a couple of rainy days over the holidays did not stop people going to the picturesque bay, south of Mangonui.

``We had the Cyclone Evan warning, but people still came up and we are booked solid. We're very pleased about it.

``There's been a bit of rain but lots of sun, so everybody's happy.''

The Russell Top 10 Holiday Park is fully booked and the weather forecast had not stopped anybody from turning up, manager Bonnie Gill said.

``They've all come up, so all's good and we've got a very happy crowd who are having a great time.''

A Herald-DigiPoll survey showed the Bay of Islands was New Zealanders' third most preferred holiday destinations.

Queenstown was the preferred domestic destination of 25.7, followed by Coromandel at 22.3 per cent, Bay of Islands at 20.7 per cent, and Nelson at 13 per cent. The Coromandel had topped the same poll last summer.

- Northern Advocate

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