Aucklanders planning Bay of Plenty getaways this Christmas will provide a much-needed boost for the embattled accommodation sector, a tourism boss says.
Bookings through the home-sharing website Bachcare increased by 186 per cent between November 15-23 compared to the previous week. The most popular Bay of Plenty destinations were Mount Maunganui and Lake Tarawera. Christmas Eve was the most common check-in date.
Bachcare said the announcement that Auckland's boundary would change on December 15, when everyone vaccinated or returning a negative Covid-19 test result would be able to leave, had given confidence "not only to Auckland guests but guests all around the country".
Air BnB's country manager for New Zealand Susan Wheeldon said that the Bay of Plenty remained a draw for Aucklanders.
Aucklanders had a lot of appetite for Bay of Plenty destinations around Mt Maunganui and Tauranga, Northland and the Coromandel, she said.
While things were looking up for some accommodation providers, others said they would still find the holidays difficult.
The Prince's Gate Hotel is on track to be full over the Christmas period, but a representative said that the holidays would still be a struggle. Aucklanders usually made up the majority of their Christmas guests.
Hotel Armitage general manager Nick Caffardo was optimistic. "It's no secret that Aucklanders are the biggest market for the Bay of Plenty - we can only welcome their ability to travel again.
"People definitely want to stay and organise events with us. They've been very positive."
Tony Bullot, of Hospitality New Zealand, said hotels in the Bay of Plenty had 50-70 per cent fewer occupants than was normal for this time of year.
He put this down to uncertainty in the Government's messaging, even with the December 15 date.
He believed they would have seen a more dramatic increase in bookings after the announcement if the Government had been clearer about its plan.
It was unclear what areas will be going straight to red in the Government's traffic light system, he said.
"We don't know whether Auckland will be allowed out and other areas will be locked down."
He said optimistic Aucklanders started booking Bay of Plenty Christmases 3-4 weeks into lockdown, but at present, bookings were still down on previous years.
Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan said Christmas bookings were slightly lower than expected.
"Kiwis traditionally tend to book at the last minute, so we expect these bookings will continue to rise."
However, there had been an increase in bookings since the Prime Minister's announcement about the Auckland border changes.
Although he could not be sure Auckland travellers were making the bookings, "the timing suggests many have been made by Aucklanders or people in the Waikato".
"It certainly looks like more Aucklanders are starting to plan their festive family celebrations and summer holidays, and we look forward to welcoming them to the coastal Bay of Plenty to relax and refresh after the difficult restrictions they have been enduring."
Nathan said Covid-19 has affected the industry greatly.
"Our accommodation sector has been severely impacted by recently cancelled events, such as Aims Games, that typically see full occupancy during our off-peak seasons. The ongoing Auckland and Waikato lockdowns, particularly during the October school holidays and Labour Day weekend, noticeably heightened this impact."
Auckland travellers would help ease the pressure the industry was under.
"A busy summer season will provide a much-needed boost for these businesses."