Hard-hit domestic tourism in New Zealand is showing early signs of bouncing
back, data released by Airbnb shows.

A week into level 2 restrictions which permit domestic travel, the home share rental site shows there has been a surge in domestic bookings on Airbnb in the seven days between May 9-16.

Airbnb has been hammered around the world by Covid-19 but figures released today for New Zealand show:

•Domestic bookings on Airbnb increased 15 times compared with the same week last
month.
•Domestic bookings on Airbnb have recovered to 85 per cent of pre-Covid levels
(compared with the same week in 2019).

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Many popular regional domestic tourism destinations including Queenstown, Taupo and
Northland are recording more domestic bookings than in the same week last year although there are no international bookings because of border closures.

Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington are all also showing strong month-on-month increases, up over seven times on the same week in 2019.

Kiwis are also choosing to stay closer to home, with more than 55 per cent of trips booked within 320km of where people live, including 16 per cent which are within 80km.

The data also indicates healthy future demand for domestic travel with more than 790,000 total searches in New Zealand last week alone, up over 70 per cent since level 2 restrictions were introduced.

The top trending destinations by search are Auckland, Queenstown, Northland, Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch.

Airbnb's country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Susan Wheeldon, said the return
of domestic travel a was relief for the local families and communities who depend on tourism.

"This has been an extremely challenging time for everyone across the tourism industry and we're really keen to help local tourism operators and small businesses get back on their feet.''

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She said it remained crucially important that everyone continues to listen closely to government advice and strictly follow the rules.

"Safety and public health continue to be the top priority for Airbnb. We are keen to work with the Government to see how Airbnb can best play a role in helping communities across New Zealand recover."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at Te Puia in Rotorua for meeting with tourism leaders. Video / Kelly Makiha

The surge in bookings will be a relief to some of around 37,000 hosts in this country who saw bookings disappear under lockdown. It will come too late for those who are now looking to rent out their houses to long-term tenants rather than using them as lucrative holiday hires.

Airbnb is one of the many businesses in the travel industry that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. CNBC reports that in March 2017 Airbnb was valued at US$31 billion (NZ$51b). By the end of April 2020 it was worth US$18b. A public listing slated for this year could be delayed.

At the beginning of May the company was forced to lay off 1900 staff - 25 per cent of its workforce. In the chaos of worldwide travel bans the company was forced to pay US$250m to hosts around the world to help cover the cost of Covid-19 cancellations.