Record visitor spending in Hawke's Bay could be set to continue without international tourists if Kiwis fill thousands of extra plane seats into Hawke's Bay Airport over the next three months.
Air New Zealand has added an extra 17,000 seats for flights in and out of the region from mid-August until October it announced as part of Thursday's opening of its new regional lounge.
It reflects a "confidence in our region" underpinned by unusually strong domestic visitor numbers, Hawke's Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton says.
Hawke's Bay recorded its highest ever annual tourism electronic card transaction (TECT) spend for a financial year despite the absence of international tourism for most of the 2020-2021 year.
TECT Data released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on Thursday revealed a 36 per cent growth in domestic visitor card spend in Hawke's Bay for the last financial year.
Domestic tourism spend is spend that is more than 40km outside the visitor's usual residence, which includes primary and secondary residences such as home and work.
About $33 million was spent by visitors via electronic card in June - a 26 per cent growth on last June and the highest ever TECT figures for the month.
Every month achieved record visitor card expenditure except for February 2021, which was significantly affected by the Art Deco Festival cancellation and Covid-19 alert level changes.
The hospitality sector recorded an annual increase in visitor card spend of 33 per cent, accommodation 11 per cent, retail 24 per cent and "other tourism spending" increased by 30 per cent.
Interestingly, transport and other transport-related businesses recorded a 58 per cent decrease in annual visitor card spend.
Saxton said the financial year has been "an entirely unorthodox year" for the region's visitor economy.
"In the most challenging environment for tourism, the increased central government support and investment has assisted us in achieving the best visitor spend results ever.
"It is a pleasing result after a year of considerable upheaval for our members and the visitor economy as a whole."
However, not all tourism-related businesses have benefited from the domestic tourism increase, and many, whose businesses targeted international consumers and cruise passengers, have had to "hibernate" or reinvent themselves, he said.
Saxton said Hawke's Bay Tourism has worked hard to promote and reinforce the region's reputation and the team are particularly proud of the Baycation campaign which saw Hawke's Bay increase its visitor share of Wellington and lower North Island tourists throughout the financial year.
Saxton said the increase in capacity from Air New Zealand for flights to the region "reflects the enduring appeal and experience offerings that Hawke's Bay presents to all visitors - particularly domestic".
The new Air New Zealand regional lounge has almost double the capacity of the previous space, catering for 130 people.
Hawke's Bay Airport chief executive Stuart Ainslie said the opening of the new airport terminal on Thursday brought "extremely positive" reaction from passengers, the new Bay Espresso café and bar so popular they "almost" ran out of coffee beans.
There were 40 flights in the terminal's first day and regular fliers were "thrilled" at the new facilities and families were taking photos in front of the historical DeHavilland propeller and the art deco truck.
"The highlight has definitely been the welcome of the first arriving flight where passengers received a karanga (welcome call) and a haka from EIT's kapa haka performance group as they entered the terminal."