New Zealanders freshly out of lockdown have been using the school holidays as a chance to get out on the road and explore their own backyard. However, according to a study into accommodation and consumer spending, Kiwi families are not journeying far. The old travel map has been thrown out the window - old tourism hotspots are struggling and new destinations are benefitting from what is being described as the "halo effect".

Analysing eftpos transactions from the beginning of the school holidays, it seems Kiwi families are sticking close to home. Spending on accommodation and attractions seems to be up within a four-hour radius of the urban areas Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

The biggest winners include Waiheke and the Hauraki Gulf. Aucklanders looking for a nearby escape have pushed spending on Great Barrier island up by 49 per cent compared to last year. Similarly Wellingtonians have been packing the car and leaving for the vines of Martinborough, where accommodation spending was up 116 per cent on last year.

This is welcome news, says Justin Lester of data company Dot Loves Data, suggesting it was time for urban centres that benefitted the most from lockdown wage subsidies to go and spend in the rural communities.


But not everywhere is benefitting from pent-up travel binge.

Queenstown has seen a modest increase in bookings over the school holidays; however it's still only at 60 per cent of what it was last year. City centres are also looking empty, as residents flock to the regions. Spending in central Christchurch is down 72 per cent, Wellington 35 per cent and Auckland 26 per cent - although this drops to as low as 33 per cent in the badly hit Auckland airport precinct, which is getting little through traffic.

The former Wellington mayor blames the price of flights and lack of events.

The lack of airfares mean that corridors between urban hubs are slow.

"When you have to pay $300 to $400 each for seats this rules out city breaks for most families." Instead those feeling the pinch of the coronavirus lockdown have chosen to load up the car and head to the surrounding country.

Spending around super rugby games "has bucked this trend" but otherwise – music halls and theatres are quiet – the cultural centres and cities have been slow to recover.
"That being said, bars are doing well," said Lester.

Hamilton in the Mighty Waikato suffered the most from the mass urban exodus. The city's spend was down 75 per cent on last year, as residents headed to the beach and bush.

Cheaper flights and more capacity might give some regions a boost as JetStar returns to the market – however this could be the new travel map of New Zealand as the country's borders remain shut to inbound tourism.