After Covid-19 put a stop to international tourism a local backpackers did something out of the ordinary and turned part of the business into an escape room.
A year on, that part of the business is thriving: a second escape room has been opened, an industry famil is planned, there's a new idea on the horizon, and they're looking to expand further.
Archies Bunker mother and daughter owners Lynne and Tanika Stewart opened Enigma Escape Rooms in August last year after international tourism stopped.
The accommodation side of the business is still operating, hosting visiting sports teams, New Zealand fruit pickers in summer and some Kiwi tourists, but numbers are nowhere near what they were.
The escape rooms, however, have been a success, particularly in the school holidays and with New Zealand tourists in January, but also throughout the year for families, adults and couples looking for date-night activities.
Late last October they opened a second room.
"Accommodation has suffered majorly. The escape rooms have been very, popular and I think they have proved that they need to stay," Tanika said.
There has been a lot of interest from businesses for corporate functions and team-building activities, but the size of the rooms has restricted this and larger groups.
There is also demand for "mirror rooms", two rooms that are the same, so groups can compete.
Without the return of international tourists, they are now looking at future options and are looking to expand to another building as the backpackers is too big to become solely escape rooms.
They're now exploring the idea of mobile team-building activities for workplaces or conferences.
Next week they are doing a famil for relevant industry professionals, including those in tourism and accommodation.
They have also invited schools as the game in the escape room is in Spanish, French, English and Te Reo Māori.
Last year, international hostel staff were kept on working in the escape rooms and now they have left, a new hostel/escape room manager has been hired.
Accommodation providers in Hawke's Bay have had more success than others, but not all tourism-related businesses have benefited from domestic tourism, Hawke's Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton said.
Figures from the Accommodation Data Programme for the 2020-2021 financial year show the overall occupancy rate for Hawke's Bay accommodation providers was 52.2 per cent, compared to 42 per cent nationally.
Motels and apartments with six to 20 rooms had the highest occupancy rate at 81.1 per cent in the Bay, motels with more than 20 rooms were close behind at 80 per cent, and backpackers' occupancy rate was at 37.8 per cent, slightly higher than holiday parks and campgrounds at 36.2 per cent – although this reflected their seasonality and ample camping capacity.
The methodology "aims to remove emergency housing stay units from the data".
Saxton said occupancy peaked in January, when motels and apartments recorded occupancy levels above 90 per cent and hotels 86 per cent full across the month.
"Referring to the statistical information currently provided up until May, the 2020-2021 financial year has seen Hawke's Bay achieve record visitor spend. However, we are quick to acknowledge that not all tourism-related businesses have benefited from domestic travellers, and others, like Archie's, have had to reinvent themselves," Saxton said.
"Overall, our region's accommodation sector has fared comparatively well since emerging out of the lockdown periods of Covid-19, with many events, school holidays and peak travel periods seeing accommodation booked out across the region.
"It is tricky to benchmark against previous years as the data set has changed in the past year. However, we know that when compared to national occupancy levels, our region's accommodation providers have had more success than many of their peers elsewhere."