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Kiwis have jumped back into domestic travel faster than anywhere else in the world with short term accommodation bookings returning to life after the Covid-19 lockdown.

That's according to analysts AirDNA, which said New Zealand Airbnb and other short term rentals bookings were last week 465 per cent higher than during the week beginning Monday, April 6 - just after the country entered level 4 lockdown.

That compared to a 367 per cent jump in bookings in Germany in the same period, 202 per cent jump in US bookings, 200 per cent rise in France and 189 per cent increase in Australia.

Commercial flights have restarted to Queenstown, giving a boost to tourist sites, such as Arrowtown. Photo / 123rf
Commercial flights have restarted to Queenstown, giving a boost to tourist sites, such as Arrowtown. Photo / 123rf

Queenstown also had the biggest return to action percentage-wise of anywhere in New Zealand or Australia.

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Bookings were up 960 per cent in the famous South Island destination from just 111 bookings in the week of April 6, to 1177 bookings last week.

Australia's Blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney, had the next biggest jump in bookings followed by Wellington in third sport with a 688 per cent jump from 216 bookings five weeks ago to 1253 bookings last week.

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"New Zealand leads the charge," AirDNA said.

"After doing a remarkable job shutting down the country and stunting the virus' spread, it's seeing a huge surge in bookings even as it heads into the winter season."

It comes as the Covid-19 pandemic turned the lights out on New Zealand's tourist industry as if by the flick of a switch with Kiwis earlier being told to stay at home in their bubbles, while the international borders were closed.

Since New Zealand's move to alert level 2, however, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has encouraged Kiwis to start getting back out and seeing their own country.

Tourism NZ also shifted its focus to domestic tourists as it launched a new video titled Do Something New Zealand.

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Wellington had the third biggest surge in short term rental bookings percentage-wise of any destination in Australia and New Zealand. Photo / 123rf
Wellington had the third biggest surge in short term rental bookings percentage-wise of any destination in Australia and New Zealand. Photo / 123rf

The campaign was a new take on the Don't leave town until you've seen the country campaign of the 1980s, which reminded New Zealanders that tourism started at home.

With international borders still largely closed, the move aimed to help revive the hard-hit sector.

Kiwis spent between $7 billion and $9b on overseas trips last year and with no international leisure travel in the foreseeable future, the tourism industry hoped to capture some of this spending locally.

Queenstown's surge in new bookings beginning last week, meanwhile, has followed on from the restarting of flights to the area.

The first scheduled commercial jet flight into Queenstown in 45 days took place on May 16.

Another possible reason for the big jump in New Zealand short-term rental bookings last week may be due to the more restrictive lockdown put in place in the country on April 6, which severely limited the rental market.

TOURIST OPERATORS' LONG WEEKEND EXCITEMENT

With international visitors locked out - tourism businesses are looking forward to a cash injection from locals over Queen's Birthday weekend.

In Wanaka, motels, hotels and backpackers are filling up fast.

James Helmore from Lake Wanaka Tourism said people were coming from all over the place.

"There's a lot of people driving ... from the lower South Island and also a few people taking advantage of the extra flights out of Auckland, Christchurch and also Wellington," he said.

James Cunningham is the sales and marketing manager of the 35-bed King and Queen Hotel Suites in New Plymouth.

He said the long weekend could not be looking any better.

"We're actually fully booked Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend so lots of leisure guests just looking to escape and come down to Taranaki - big market from Wellington, Napier and also Auckland," he said.

Art Deco Napier was also busy preparing for visitors.

Mark Johnson owns the Colonial Lodge Motel and he is fully booked.

Wellington was not quite so busy - Rob Burnell from Bella Vista said Queen's Birthday was usually a bumper weekend - but that was not the case this year.

"It's not in the city centre - it's close to the airport - normally they would have been fully booked this weekend," he said.

Some tourists were staying away from driving and would instead sit back and take in the views by bus.

Daniel Rode from Intercity said its buses were up and running to most places and some routes were at full capacity.

He said it would be enforcing safe social distancing rules.

Skyline Enterprises runs some of Queenstown and Rotorua's hottest attractions, including gondola, luge and stargazing.

Chief executive Geoff McDonald was hoping to leverage off all the visitors who were desperate to get out and about.

"We'll get visitation from Southland, Otago, Canterbury - but now Air New Zealand has put a few more flights on that makes a big difference for us ... Rotorua's a bit different with the proximity of Auckland - people will drive and they'll also come across from the Bay of Plenty," he said.

He was hoping this weekend's boost in travel would continue in the lead-up to the critical ski season.

-with RNZ