Tourism numbers soared in the Waikato during the July school holidays as New Zealanders took to exploring their own backyard and supporting local with borders still currently shut.

It was a massive boost for the region, with a 19 per cent growth in domestic visitor numbers for the region compared to 2019, with domestic tourism the Waikato's main source of revenue.

On average, 55,140 domestic travellers visited the Waikato region during the school holidays, compared to 46,350 visitors this time last year.

Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said all tourism businesses in the visitor economy benefited from the influx of domestic visitors during the winter school holiday season, including accommodation, retail, hospitality, tourism operators, transport providers and event venues.

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"The Waikato region was only second behind the Auckland region who attracted 79,160 domestic visitors into their region," said Dawson.

"We have around 2.6 million people living within a three-hour drive radius of Hamilton and Waikato which is a significant domestic market for our region," he said.

"Air New Zealand also increased capacity during the school holidays into Hamilton Airport from our fly markets of Christchurch and Wellington which gave us the extra boost as well," he said.

Dawson said Hamilton and Waikato Tourism has also been working hard to attract domestic visitors back to the region post-Covid-19, launching a number of marketing campaigns targeting the leisure, business and events market in key 'drive and fly' markets.

 Black water rafting is one of the many activities tourist can do in the Waikato. Photo / Hamilton and Waikato Tourism
Black water rafting is one of the many activities tourist can do in the Waikato. Photo / Hamilton and Waikato Tourism

"Our Waikato residents responded really well to the Mighty Local campaign during alert levels 3 and 4, and now our Open for Exploration campaign in the leisure market for domestic travellers outside of the Waikato, the Mighty Welcome'campaign in the business events market and deals on our website are helping to drive increased visitation and spend," said Dawson.

"These reported figures align to the anecdotal evidence we had from all our operators that they were run off their feet during school holidays. We are continuing to work with our industry to stimulate demand between now and the September/October school holidays, plus the lucrative spring/summer season."

A Kiwi owned family travel business in Hamilton is also hoping to boost domestic tourism across the country by organising an event to help locals learn more about New Zealand travel products.

Leisure Time Travel is a family-owned travel business that has been running from Hamilton since 1987.


The business organises group tours and independent holidays in New Zealand. The largest part of the business is normally international travellers, but in order for Leisure Time to survive until the borders open again they have been focusing on providing a great range of options for New Zealand travellers of all sorts.

Sales and marketing manager for Leisure Time Travel, Vicki Annison, said Leisure Time Travel has needed to adapt to the post Covid-19 market, and is putting more of a focus on the domestic market.

"We work with travel businesses (accommodation, transport and activity providers) across the Waikato and the whole of New Zealand, so when someone books a holiday or tour with us they are supporting not only a locally established and very experienced company but in turn giving business to many other New Zealand tourism businesses whose products we include in our tours/packages," Annison said.

"Our team have created some amazing holidays for New Zealanders with a range of options to suit all ages and interests."

The event is on August 13 running from 6pm-8pm at the Hamilton City Brass Club Rooms, 245 Clyde St, Hamilton East