The great Kiwi camping holiday is poised to make a comeback after lockdown pulled the plug on what was shaping up to be another busy season.
"In April last year our total income was $263,000 – April this year - $12,000," Pāpāmoa Beach Resort owner Bruce Crosby said.
"We were looking forward to a very busy April, Easter, school holidays, we had huge bookings, we had big group bookings, we had some group bookings from Australia in the $35,000 range ... and that all turned to custard, obviously."
Ian Smith, owner of the Waihi Beach and Beachaven Top Ten campgrounds, said the worst part was not knowing when it was going to be over.
"It was more about the big unknown and trying to strategise around that and say if this carries on what can we do to ensure that we as a business remain viable as a business moving forward?"
The wage subsidy was a godsend, meaning staff kept their jobs. And as soon as New Zealand moved to alert level 2, owners heaved a sigh of relief because the phones started ringing again.
"We had a lot of people ringing from Hamilton, Taupō, people wanting to come over and stay with us – basically get out of the house," Mark Hales of Mt Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park said.
Crosby noticed the return almost instantly.
"Last Saturday we had 253 people on the property. The Saturday before we had 155, which was the first weekend after level 2."
And things are looking even better for the Queen's Birthday long weekend.
"We've got about 40 site bookings. I think people are hanging out to see how the weather goes in the early part of this week. We're receiving 30-50 reservations a day for this coming weekend and forward through the year."
Hales has a few spaces left on the harbour side of Mauao but the beachside accommodation is fully booked.
With overseas travel currently off the table, Smith said the humble campground now found itself in a strong position.
"Pre Covid-19, cruising was one of biggest competitions, overseas travel all that sort of thing. Suddenly that's been taken away for the foreseeable future. So what else do you do?
"Suddenly camping becomes an option again that wasn't previously in the consideration set. So, a great opportunity."
And when campgrounds do well, so does the local economy. Crosby said his customers spent $7 million each year in the local economy.
"Those figures are worked out accurately by survey, so if we aren't getting the visitors, that spend isn't going on through the local economy. Our customers that come here, typically don't go doing big activity type things, they're here to relax at the beach but they do go shopping and the cafes and the restaurants."
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