Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Otago tourist operators weathering storm

Motel Association of NZ (MANZ) Board member, Neville Butcher hangs-tough about Dunedin's visitor prospects as Queenstown operators feel the pain of recent over-speculation and decline in overseas visitor numbers.

20 Jan 2009
Otago Daily Times

Amid gloomy reports of falling international tourist numbers, industry redundancies and low occupancy rates, many of Otago's accommodation providers and tourist operators say they have fared well so far this summer.

While the slowdown in international visitors had started to bite in Queenstown, tourism operators in other parts of Otago said they could weather the storm if the domestic market remained strong and the Australian market picked up.

Tourism industry representatives around the region understood it had more or less been business as usual for accommodation providers in Dunedin and Central Otago so far this summer, while Wanaka's strategy of developing popular events had been successful in drawing large crowds to the area.

As Queenstown accommodation providers reported a drop of 10% to 15% in occupancy rates, Otago Motel Association chairman Neville Butcher said Dunedin motels were about as busy as normal over the Christmas-New Year period with the traditional domestic crowd in town for the holiday.

Things had been quieter on Otago Peninsula and in Mosgiel, but the period from February to April was traditionally Dunedin's busy period and so far bookings were looking "not too bad".

Reports this week indicated national coach tour company Johnstones Coachlines had made 11 employees redundant - including three in Queenstown - because falling tourist numbers were forcing the cancellation of tours.

Johnston's Coachlines managing director Philip Manning told The Press newspaper economic issues in Britain, the United States and Australia were affecting older travellers, the company's main market.

The number of tours run in the first half of this season were down about 20% and expected to fall about 40%, he said.

Real Journeys chief executive Dave Hawkey said there was a 5% to 10% decline in passengers this season, which mirrored the decline in overall visitors to New Zealand.

The company had not laid off staff, but had not hired as many seasonal workers this year.

Tourism New Zealand believes up to 45,000 fewer visitors will arrive this year from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In Dunedin, Taieri Gorge Railway chief executive Murray Bond said a significant drop in both the coach-tour market and cruise passengers booking shore excursions had been offset by a "very good" independent tourist, domestic tourist and rail trail market over the summer.

So far, the company had seen only a slight drop in passenger numbers compared with the corresponding time last year, but the next three months could be tough, he said.

In contrast to most providers, Malcolm Budd said his tour bus company Otago Explorer was having its best summer in 10 years.

He believed the company was doing well because it catered to the lower-end tourist market.
Bookings for the rest of the season were looking "OK", but he, too, was expecting a decline over the next few months.

Tourism Central Otago marketing manager Alison Mason said operators in Cromwell, Alexandra and Roxburgh had indicated that so far the season was on a par with previous summer seasons.

Some businesses were slightly less busy than usual, butnot unduly concerned.

Accommodation providers had a "comfortable" number of bookings for the next few months and were really just waiting to see how the season would turn out, she said.

Wanaka Chamber of Commerce president Leigh Stock said recent events the town organised drew people to Wanaka as a destination.

Often the visitors were domestic, which helped insulate tourism operators and businesses from any downturn from international tourists.

"We are under no illusions that we'll have a tough year."

Source: Click HERE

Click the "Get Widget" link below to place this widget on your website or blog!