GOLOCAL

The first glow-worm kayak tours and skydives in alert level 2 have taken place - providing hope to Tauranga tourism operators as they get back to business after the lockdown.

Some business owners say the interest in local attractions shows there is light at the end of the tunnel but others say only time will reveal the full economic impact on the industry.

However, Tauranga accommodation told the Bay of Plenty Times they were "cautiously optimistic" about receiving reservations again.

Waimarino Adventure Park owner Blair Anderson said he took his first glow-worm kayak tour on Friday since opening in level 2 for an American family who had come from the Hawke's Bay.

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"It is like 'yay, there is hope'," he said.

"We were starting to realise we might go under, now everyone is feeling like 'yay we are not going to lose our jobs'. It is nice to let people know Tauranga is still alive."

Anderson said eight people were on Sunday night's glow-worm tour and another tour was booked for Wednesday night and the weekend.

"We are expecting them to dribble through from now on."

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Yesterday, a couple were considering Waimarino for their wedding venue and the after- school care programme Waimarino Education Trust had also started.

Anderson said going into lockdown was "surreal" after losing all of their bookings.

"Every single thing disappeared. We went through a very emotionally destroying time over lockdown.

"Now, we are living on a bit of a buzz. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It feels positive."

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Co-owner and operator of Skydive Tauranga, Tristan Webb, said it wasn't a hugely busy weekend after re-opening in level 2 but a few people were "trickling through".

"It is early days. I can imagine we won't see the full toll of the economic impact this soon but it was encouraging and we were humbled by the number of vouchers people bought in the lockdown."

Waimarino Adventure Park owner Blair Anderson, Kate Price of Waimarino Education Trust, and Adele d'Arth Waverley are excited to be open in level 2. Photo / George Novak
Waimarino Adventure Park owner Blair Anderson, Kate Price of Waimarino Education Trust, and Adele d'Arth Waverley are excited to be open in level 2. Photo / George Novak

Webb said the rules of operating in level 2 meant staff wore PPE gear, including full-face helmets, sanitised their hands regularly and asked that only the person skydiving be allowed inside.

Aviation Training owner and Adventure Helicopters partner, Shamus Howard, said the flight training and testing side of the business was "solid" with plenty of calls from experienced pilots wanting to learn to fly a helicopter.

However, he described the Adventure Helicopters business that was set up 15 months ago as a "minor disaster" because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions and the company was considering putting the $1.8 million twin-engine Bell 427 helicopter it used for tours on the market.

But they had taken a proactive step to put up a screen to separate flight crew and passengers inside the helicopter and hoped people would take up the opportunity to explore their backyard.

The first skydives happened in Tauranga this week. Photo / Supplied
The first skydives happened in Tauranga this week. Photo / Supplied

Quest manager Adrian Turner said he had seen more activity from corporate travellers making reservations at the Quest on Devonport and Quest on Durham hotel apartments.

Turner said both hotels were performing "extremely well" for May with about 75 per cent occupancy rates on average for April mainly from people in Small Business Enterprises.

Hospitality New Zealand accommodation sector Bay of Plenty chairman and 850 Cameron Motel owner Tony Bullot said accommodation providers were "cautiously optimistic" about a return of reservations in level 2.

However, the business was not what it was pre-lockdown.

"December last year nobody foresaw this. You couldn't have planned Covid into the equation," he said.

"But people are starting to see they have a legitimate business in the future."

Bullot said it was good news regular customers were coming back but business was not back to normal until the tourism market returned.

"Tourism is a big part of Tauranga and that is going to hurt a lot of businesses. There is still a lot of pain.

"But Tauranga certainly has a future."

Bullot said the 850 Cameron Motel was being refurbished and would not reopen until July 1.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said domestic tourism was vital to the economy as times ahead will be tough for the industry.

However, Dunne said it was encouraging and not surprising to hear Kiwis were choosing to book holidays in the Bay.

"We know that we won't have the annual $250 million in international visitor and cruise passenger spend in the Coastal Bay of Plenty's economy for some time.

"We will be relying on the strength of our domestic market. There are more than 6000 jobs directly employed by our local tourism industry which are at stake."