COMMENT

Optimism is a curious thing – particularly at the moment. A global pandemic is not a natural home for optimism; and yet, there it is.

No one dares say anything more than they are "cautiously optimistic" right now, but as the frequency of the phrase increases so too does the temptation to narrow it down to just the final word.

A survey of Hawke's Bay Tourism Association members would suggest that many Hawke's Bay tourism operators are experiencing this surge in optimism too.

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In the Covid-19 Recovery Survey of our members, meeting their day-to-day costs was the leading priority for many right now. And while day-to-day costs aren't going anywhere anytime soon, these costs – rent, debt servicing, vehicle fleets, staff – are almost normal.

Driving optimism is a surge in visitor numbers. Travellers are returning to our region from Wellington, Auckland, Manawatu and Taupo, and locals are getting out to make the most of the wonderful region we live in.

Tourism New Zealand-commissioned research with Data Ventures, released last week, showed us that during the July school holiday period visitors to Hawke's Bay were up 22.8 per cent on the same time last year.

What's more, those association members who took part in our Covid-19 Recovery Survey say there seems to be a genuine appetite from New Zealanders to support the tourism industry.

There is also the pent-up demand for travel outside of our own regions which drove the recent spike in visitors during the school holidays and then there's the on-going promotion of our wonderful region to New Zealand.

We are hearing tale after tale where visitors have been enticed to our region to enjoy a Baycation of their own and our operators tell us they are excited to see this campaign expanded upon through spring and summer as more and more events are announced.

However, we do know that it is not all roses out there and our tourism operators who relied on international or cruise tourism are having a tough time of it.

We are also aware that the Government's wage subsidy programme is set to expire in September so whether Kiwis will continue to explore their own backyard beyond this remains to be seen.

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Many of our recent visitors to Hawke's Bay have been those who have travelled here before, though many years ago, and are now blown away by the leaps and strides our region has made. Yet, had it not been for our closed borders, they might never have come.

Now is the time to welcome these visitors with open arms.

Hawke's Bay is a premium destination. We are food and wine country. And it is critical that we are front and centre in the minds of New Zealanders as they consider where to go next.

Tourism New Zealand is doing a great job in encouraging Kiwis to "discover something new New Zealand", and we want that "something new" to be Hawke's Bay.


* Hamish Saxton is Hawke's Bay Tourism chief executive