Fewer tourists are snapping up bookings for our Great Walks after a hike in international fees.
The Department of Conservation has increased the cost of huts for international visitors on the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks as well as the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk.
From the start of October, tourists have been charged about double what Kiwi walkers would pay — ranging from $140 per night on the popular Milford track, to $75 on the Abel Tasman.
DOC figures collated from the time bookings opened, to 30 September, showed the number of bookings made by international visitors for the summer period had decreased 14 per cent.
Bookings made by people living in New Zealand had increased from 45 per cent to 57 per cent, while bookings for Kiwi kids jumped 14 per cent.
The new pricing scheme will be trialled through to April 2019 when DOC will decide whether it stays.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said the early figures were encouraging.
"It's good to see that in the trial so far, the number of New Zealanders booking has jumped quite considerably," Roberts said.
Roberts said TIA figures showed visitor numbers were still increasing at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent. so there was no evidence people were being put off coming here.
While there had been a shift in who was making the bookings, the spots were increasingly a hot commodity in the lead up to summer. All three huts on the Milford Track are booked from the start of November through to the end of May.
One New Zealander who will be lacing up her hiking boots this summer is Sarah Bacon — an Auckland-based engineer and Great Walk enthusiast.
Over her summer holidays, Bacon had hoped to tick off the three tracks she hadn't done. She'd secured bookings for both the Routeburn and the Rakiura tracks over December and January, but had missed out on the Milford Track.
"It sold out in like 10 seconds — I don't know how that was possible."
Introducing higher fees for tourists was long overdue in her opinion — and something that could be trialled for other walks and even other activities.
"If you're born in New Zealand or you're a resident, I don't think you should be paying the same price as tourists to walk through, essentially, what is part of New Zealand."
DOC's Director of Recreation, Tourism and Heritage Gavin Walker said it wasn't unusual for the Milford Track to be booked out.
"Hut spaces are limited on all the Great Walks and on the Milford Track camping is not permitted," he said.
"This ensures numbers on the Great Walks are sustainable and the outstanding natural environments that the walks pass through are protected."
Walker said there was an overall increase of 6471, or 9 per cent, in bed nights booked in the two weeks after bookings opened, compared to last year.
Despite tourists making up a smaller percentage of overall bookings, DOC's differential pricing scheme had raised $1.9 million in additional revenue over the first two weeks of bookings.
All revenue generating would be used to help fund and maintain the Great Walk network.
Huts on New Zealand's 9 Great Walks
• Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk. = $32
• Tongariro Northern Circuit. = $36
• Whanganui Journey. = $32
• Abel Tasman Coast Track. + Kiwis $38, all visitors $75
• Heaphy Track. = $34
• Milford Track. + Kiwis $70, all visitors $140
• Kepler Track. + Kiwis $65, all visitors $130
• Routeburn Track. + Kiwis $65, all visitors $130
• Rakiura Track. = $24