Friday, November 28, 2008

Locals fill visitor gap left by foreigners

A more positive story in today's New Zealand Herald. 

Hopefully more Kiwis will be encouraged to hit the road and stay in the country's most popular accommodation choice - motels.

It is interesting that Tim Cossar, chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association (TIA) appears to be the new self-appointed spokesman for New Zealand's accommodation industry.

Nov 28, 2008
New Zealand Herald
By Jarrod Booker 

It may be all gloom for tourist operators as the global economic crisis bites, but many are finding a silver lining by looking closer to home.

They are finding that as international visitor numbers drop off, New Zealanders are increasingly looking to explore the attractions in their own country.

Cheaper petrol is making travel within more enticing, while tax cuts and falling interest rates are leaving many consumers with more cash in their pockets.

The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch is on track for 255,000 visitors this financial year - a 5 per cent increase on the previous year.

Director Richard Benton said that while overseas tourist numbers were falling, he expected any shortfall would be offset by an increase in visitors from within New Zealand.

The number of Christchurch visitors had risen by 8 per cent, while North Island visitors were up 10 per cent.

"While the international tourism market is undoubtedly going to be very challenging over the next few months, there are some positive factors that we should not lose sight of," Mr Benton said. "It is highly likely that New Zealanders are going to take advantage of much lower petrol prices to travel around their own country, and the drop in interest rates and personal taxes are going to leave some discretionary money available to spend on leisure activities."

Any increases in domestic tourism will be welcomed by the industry when trends over recent months have been all bad.

For the year ended June 2008, the overall number of domestic overnight trips fell 5.5 per cent to 14.36 million, while the number of visitor night stays dropped 4.3 per cent to 42.94 million. Spending by domestic tourists fell 6.4 per cent to $7.389 billion for the year.

Tim Cossar, chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association, said domestic tourism was now a big focus as international markets came under pressure. "There are some encouraging signs for domestic tourism across the summer season. We are getting some regions in some parts of the industry reporting some quite good forward bookings."

Domestic markets make up about half the tourism turnover - about $26 million a day.

"It's a critical market and very, very important for the future. But one thing we have got to remember is that one size doesn't fit all here. There's regions that do really well out of it and those that don't."

The international crisis is also having other spinoffs for New Zealand.

The Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau has recently fielded inquiries from two Australian companies who are rethinking their plans to hold conferences in long-haul destinations because of the cost, and are now considering New Zealand as an alternative venue.

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