It has been one week since our hospitality and events sectors breathed a collective sigh of relief at the dawn of alert level 1.
A week since New Zealanders have been allowed to dine, gather, grieve and celebrate without restriction. And while this has been a significant step for all New Zealanders, it is a game-changer for our events industry.
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Prior to the move to alert level 1, events were at a virtual standstill.
Sure, some smaller events were allowed to go ahead – as long as numbers stayed below 100 – but for many of Hawke's Bay's most notable events, even planning and groundwork was difficult.
Thankfully, the announcement last week from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern means we have plenty to look forward to.
We have the Central Hawke's Bay Spring Fling, the Hawke's Bay Marathon and Spring Carnival in September. The Hawke's Bay Arts Festival, A & P Show, the Cape Kidnappers Trail Run and the Hawke's Bay Wine Auction all in October.
November brings the Hospice Holly, Summer F.A.W.C!, and the Mission Concert and then we hit summer!
Iron Maori, Bridge Pa Wine Festival, the Art Deco Festival, Horse of the Year, Triple Peaks ... and that's without mentioning the many more concerts, and community and school-level sporting events that our region will play host to.
Every one of these events is valuable to the local economy as a whole, thanks to the numbers of out-of-region visitors they attract.
In February this year, Hawke's Bay recorded $59 million in visitor spend from the domestic market – the biggest month this region has ever seen and a huge 29 per cent increase on domestic visitor spend in February 2019.
This was also the month when we had two Elton John concerts and a Michael Buble concert at the Mission as well as the Art Deco Festival. All events that clearly draw visitors to our region.
The Hawke's Bay Marathon, which is one of the first key events to get under way post Covid-19, has almost 6000 participants, 75 per cent of which are typically from out of region. These out of town guests also bring with them their friends and family as support crew, further driving the visitor spend.
The Hawke's Bay A & P Show welcomes almost 5000 visitors to the region in October, who either take part in the event's many competitions or visit as a business to sell products. The value of their time here is worth more than a million dollars to our local economy, and that's without assessing the social benefits of education around the primary sector and bridging the gap between urban and rural communities.
Horse of the Year meanwhile, contributes $5.28m to the regional GDP with 86 per cent of their visitors coming from outside the region.
All this is without touching on the vital business events and conferences that help keep our accommodation and hospitality busy during the working week.
These events, and the visitors they attract, deliver the critical mass required to sustain so much that we as locals enjoy. They also employ local people and help drive our regional economy forward.
Their value to the region is real and tangible, so it is with great anticipation that we welcome them back as part of the essence to life in Hawke's Bay.
* Hamish Saxton is Hawke's Bay Tourism chief executive