While international tourism faces an epidemic of empty hotel rooms, shortfall in custom and grounded flights this backwater New Zealand location is complaining of a unique set of circumstances:
The Chatham Islands have too many tourists.
The archipelago in the Roaring Forties is famous for windswept landscapes, off-grid lifestyle, fresh seafood and fresher climate. On an average year Pitt Island welcomes around 2000 visitors. With a permanent population of about 700, that's a considerable amount.
However, with international tourism at a standstill, an increasing number of Kiwi travellers have been flocking to the islands for an 'overseas' holiday.
The islands' combined 150 guest beds in hotels, pensions and BnBs are completely full.
According to the Chathams' tourism manager Jackie Gurden, even she is struggling to find accommodation when she flies in from her posting on the mainland.
Last week American news site CNN said it might be the "only place in the world experiencing overtourism right now."
"I don't know if it's too much of a good thing just yet but the growth in tourism has been really significant post Covid," she told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.
Gurden said the Chathams' appeal has always been strong, but they seem especially exotic right now, as the "furthest place you can currently travel" without isolating.
"With the Tourism New Zealand campaign there's been a big drive on the domestic tourism. It's at peak," she said.
"Visitors need to think about when they visit. [The Chathams are] a year round destination, but we're looking pretty busy already for May and June – the off-peak season."
The local tourism network had planned for incremental growth, but the growth has arrived all at once.
"That puts pressure on the infrastructure," says Gurden. "To have such sudden growth happen does have an effect on the community and life on the island."
A responsible guide to the Chathams
The islands are famous for their bountiful seafood, particular blue cod and crayfish. Fish is exceptionally fresh and exceptionally good value – especially compared to other options.
"Everything costs about three to four times more than the rest of New Zealand due to practically everything needing to be freighted over from the mainland," reports travel journalist Juliette Sivertsen.
Be taken care of
Hotel Chatham, holding the islands' only licenced bar, is a one-stop shop for the port of Waitangi. As a gateway to the mainland it handles air travel, transfers, tours and accommodation for guests.
Prepare for all weathers
Yes, it's an all-year-round destination, and demand has pushed bookings further into traditional off-peak times, but be aware there are two distinct seasons on the Chathams.
As local fisherman Vince Dix says:
"Summertime's nice. Winter time is just plain right miserable."
Take your time
Relax. The majority of time you are on the Chathams, you will spend waiting. Particularly if the island is as busy as it is currently.
Waiting for boats. Waiting for a break in the weather. Waiting for a tug on your fishing line.
"Mainlanders just don't understand the pace of life there," says Dix.
For the in depth report and more information on what to do on the islands read the article here: nzherald.co.nz/indepth/news/chatham-islands/