The school holidays are upon us, but will Covid-19 alert level 2 keep visitors away from Whanganui this spring?
Accommodation providers are hoping that's not the case, and Jeannie Kay at Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park said her numbers would be boosted by the arrival of rowers from five different secondary schools over the next couple of weeks.
"They come here to train during the holidays," Kay said.
"All of our other gaps are starting to fill up as well."
Alert level 2 restrictions were in place, but things were still "ticking along".
Guests were arriving from Wellington and the Kapiti Coast, and Kay said they'd had northern visitors as well.
"Obviously we are checking addresses with every booking that comes in," she said.
"We did have one family whose address looked to be inside the Auckland boundary. This was when they were still at level 4.
"It turned out they were literally about 200 metres outside of it, so they were good to come down."
Elsewhere, Kai Iwi Beach Holiday Park owner Diane Taylor was hoping the ground dried out by the time schools were let out.
At this stage, most upcoming bookings were for grandparents and grandkids, she said.
"These school holidays are looking pretty quiet.
"We definitely noticed that it's quieter compared to last year after lockdown. That's a little concerning at times, but at least our future bookings are looking a bit better.
"Touch wood nothing happens in the meantime."
Taylor said she'd welcomed a lot of visitors from Auckland at this time last year, but the city's extended lockdown had obviously put paid to that in 2021.
"Add the recent weather into it and it doesn't help. We can't do much about that though.
"Half of our bookings just turn up on the day and hope for the best, so we are hoping that happens again.
"Bring on Labour weekend."
Up the Whanganui River, Bridge to Nowhere Lodge and Tours owner Joe Adam said bookings were coming in for the next two weeks, but things had been quiet in the lead up to the school holidays.
"We were definitely busier this time last year," Adam said.
"Things just went ballistic when we got out of that first lockdown."
Auckland's ongoing lockdown had forced a lot of cancellations in October, Adam said.
"Local visitors come in larger groups than the international tourists, so those can could be eight to 15 people in one hit.
"That's a big loss, but October is just the beginning of the season. December is absolutely crazy and January is usually fully booked out."
Large groups of up to 27 people from Whanganui itself had made recent bookings.
"Overall, I think things are looking good," Adam said.
Slow and steady was the order of the day for the Mangaweka and Awastone campgrounds in Rangitīkei.
An Awastone spokeswoman said bookings and inquiries were about the same as October last year.
The weather wasn't warm enough for large numbers of visitors just yet, she said.
"There's still a certain amount of weekend warrior behaviour that's been going on for last year, and that hasn't seemed to change too much.
"We still have bookings between the cafe, the camping ground, and a few school holiday-makers passing through and doing the odd river trip."
Jacqueline Zheng at the Gateway Motor Lodge said contractors from out-of-town had returned to Whanganui under alert level 2 and were helping to keep bookings up.
She currently had guests from Tauranga and Christchurch.
"We are hoping to be busy over the next couple of weeks, well kind of busy at least," Zheng said.
"Usually during school holidays we have Auckland people coming down to Whanganui to visit family and things like that."
Zheng said she was confident the summer months, and the wide range of events that brought, would bring travellers back to the city.
Bookings were already coming in for December.
"Business is picking up, it's not like level 3 or level 4.
"Keeping at level 2 is okay at the moment. We ask guests to have masks in reception to protect staff and customers, and there are barcodes in individual rooms, just in case they forget to scan when they arrive."
Like Adam, Whanganui River Experience director Hayden Potaka said the lack of Auckland visitors would impact usual October business.
Most of the people who went on his river trips were from the City of Sails.
"At the moment I've got a couple of families (booked), but that's about it really," Potaka said.
"Thankfully there are some locals coming on the river, usually just for a day trip."
Covid-19 was still creating anxiety about travelling and doing activities, and people were waiting till alert level 1 before they really got "back into the crowds", Potaka said.
"Until then, we need to make sure everyone sticks with the government's criteria.
"I think a lot of Whanganui locals are exploring their own area at the moment though, and they are learning about the river itself, which is always a good thing.
"October is a beautiful time to go down (the river) because It's not too busy.
"It's still a little bit cold, but the season is open."