Tourists from Wellington aren't just visiting Hawke's Bay, they're eating and drinking the region into the biggest hospitality boom seen for some time, statistics show.
Visitor spending surged by 33 per cent year-on-year in the Bay in October, up from from $43.1 million in 2019 to a record $57.4m.
MBIE's Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates reveal exactly where that boom is focused -with bars, restaurants, cafes and wineries the big winners.
Hawke's Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton said spending on food and beverage services increased 59.8 per cent in the region from October 2019 to October 2020 in the region.
Saxton said there were also increases in accommodation and retail spending, and a 44 per cent drop international spend in the region in October (from $10.3m to $5.8m) was more than covered by an influx of Wellingtonian, and other domestic, visitors.
Hygge at Clifton Bay owner Kerry Brannigan said business has been "booming", with an increase in activity and turnover in the last year.
"Covid impacted us in the immediate term, but in the longer term, it hasn't. We've had another year-on-year increase," he said.
Kelly Simmonds, owner of Havelock North-based Malo and Ahuriri's Gin Trap, said an increase in visitors from the capital means an increase in turnover.
"Both have been a lot busier, with lots of visitors from Wellington," she said. "The people on holiday tend to splash out a little more too.
"There are still a lot of locals coming out more than before too. As people are not going overseas, they're going out for dinner and enjoying themselves here."
Brannigan agreed, and added that their venue's function space is also busier, with locals going ahead with plans without international guests.
"We get people in from all over – from Wellington mostly, but also Hamilton, Whangarei and Taupo, as well as Aucklanders, albeit it sporadically," he said.
"Most of the functions bookings got moved back and put on hold due to Covid. But we're seeing people decide to go ahead with their weddings and events, with or without overseas family and friends."
Saxton said Hawke's Bay's visitor economy has performed exceptionally well given the circumstances.
"We're working in an increasingly competitive environment with all regions in New Zealand battling for a finite number of domestic visitors, so we're thrilled to be increasing our share of the pie during this time," he said.
"Hawke's Bay has enduring appeal to domestic visitors. We are New Zealand's food and wine country and Kiwis come back time and again for another taste."
Hawke's Bay joins just three other regions - Otago, West Coast and Northland – with positive growth territory for domestic visitor spend during the 12 months to October 2020.
The region also logged a record-breaking month in October with overall visitor spend up by 18 per cent.
October's overall spend in Hawke's Bay ($57.3m) follows record-breaking months in July ($51.3m), August ($45.8m) and September ($50.2m).
Accommodation (+39.3 per cent), retail (+36.3 per cent) and other tourism products (+21.6 per cent) made up the other top spending sectors year-on-year.
Saxton said with more than 40 per cent of annual international spend in the three months of summer, it's unlikely the region will fully replace the loss of international visitation.
He said not only was there a bumper cruise season this year, but international acts performed in three Mission Estate concerts in February, bringing in visitors from all over.
But Saxton said events, including the Bridge Pa Wine Festival, international cricket matches, Art Deco and concerts from Six60 and Crowded House will help recreate the previous buzz.
"These events provide a timely reason to travel and visit Hawke's Bay, and we look forward to welcoming visitors throughout the holiday period," he said.