With Covid-19 vaccinations beginning across the world, Waikato tourism bosses are hoping that hotels being used to isolate returning Kiwis will be freed up for tourism and business use again with a busy summer period approaching for Hamilton.
Hamilton's lack of hotel capacity has been an ongoing saga for the city and as it grows, more events are being scheduled next year, such as Claudelands Oval's first Six60 concert, and the annual Fieldays at Mystery Creek - and there are worries that Hamilton will not be able to cope.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism CEO Jason Dawson is concerned that the hotels being used for managed isolation means Hamilton is possibly missing out on much-needed tourism revenue, saying January to March was the region's most popular time.
Last year, Hamilton was named the No.1 summer spot according to Book-a-Bach, ahead of Wanaka (2nd), Queenstown (3rd), Rotorua (4th) and Taupo (5th).
"The Distinction Hotel, Jet Park, and Ibis have signed up to be isolation hotels until April. We will be restrained as a city this summer as we have events such as Six60, Crowded House and the cricket. It is going to be a busy time for us," Dawson said.
"The January to March season is an incredibly busy time for us are we are going to be constrained having those three hotels unavailable.
"People will have to be more organised pre-booking hotels, but we have also lost a lot of motel accommodation as well due to emergency housing, so that is also putting extra pressure on."
Dawson said hotel shortages were seen at the recent Maori All Blacks verses Moana Pasifika game at FMG Stadium, where both teams had to stay at hotels in Rotorua and Auckland.
He said that for conferences and business events that could get the tourism economy back on track again, the lack of hotels were meaning they could not use Claudelands Event Centre and Mystery Creek to their full potential.
"We are innovating, we are managing to host events still with some temporary ways of accommodation such as transferring them from other parts of the region, but Fieldays is going to be a big concern for us and we are hoping that we might get one or two of those hotels released back into open market before the 2021 Fieldays."
"If there is one silver lining, it has shown how constrained we are in terms of hotels and hopefully we can get some action around it. There is more hope with the Australian travel bubble, as 50 per cent of people returning to New Zealand through those isolation facilities are coming from Australia."
Before Covid-19 hit the world, Hamilton was fast becoming a hub for larger-scale events such as the World Rugby Sevens, with more international and domestic visitors staying in Hamilton City, with an estimated 797,177 commercial guest nights (holiday parks, motels and hotels), which was a 4.9 per cent increase on the previous year according to the commercial accommodation monitor report from 2019.
Visitors are also staying longer in Hamilton City, averaging 2.13 nights per visit.
Hamilton City Council general manager venues, tourism, and major events group Sean Murray said the isolation hotels had to take priority, but Hamilton had a small stock of hotel rooms for a city its size.
"We have talked to the Government and different agencies about our concerns, however their response to the pandemic is rightly trumping everything else. They are aware it has been tough for us," Murray said.
"We have mega events such as Fieldays which will be impacted, it is an unfortunate challenge but we seem to be dealing with it well."
Murray said with the pandemic the appetite for developers to build hotels while there is a lack of international tourists has disappeared.
"It is a very challenged sector to invest in at the moment as it is so uncertain but that doesn't apply to Hamilton as we are not a big international destination but the challenge still applies to the city."
He said that the city still needs at least two large boutique hotels to be able to cope with the demand.
Murray also said that a lot of the motels on Ulster St had also been taken up by the Government for emergency housing use.
"There are a lot of motels that are used by the Government to help people out so that is another stress on our capacity again."
"We are in for a pretty busy time over the next two years so hopefully the pandemic will run its course and we can get back to some sense of normality very soon."