Bumper winter forecast for Akaroa after tourism takes Covid-19 battering

Originally published by TVNZ

Like many towns in New Zealand, Canterbury’s Akaroa relies on the tourist dollar – a dollar which is hard to find with the borders currently closed to international tourists.

02:21 With New Zealand’s borders closed the Canterbury town is eyeing domestic tourists to visit. Source: 1 NEWS

But despite this, the Banks Peninsula village believes it could have the best winter it’s had in years as Kiwis realise their need to spend local.

Despite moody weather, the mood itself in the historic French village is upbeat.

Criterion Motel faced a pile of cancellations due to Covid-19 but now New Zealanders are free to travel again, they’re being swamped with bookings.

“We’re actually really optimistic that we might get some local people coming in and enjoying Akaroa,” owner Felicity Taylor told 1 NEWS.

Akaroa Dolphins are thrilled to have more customers coming on their boats again, with the wildlife appearing to enjoy having an audience again too. 1 NEWS Read More: Kiwis urged to holiday in ‘own backyard’ as tourism industry struggles through Covid-19

“The dolphins were unbelievable, we think it’s because they missed us,” Hugh Waghorn says.

“They were all lined up at the entrance to the harbour waiting for us to get there.”

Akaroa businesses are hoping this early local enthusiasm might turn into a bumper winter, a traditionally quiet period for the town.

“We’re very encouraged about winter and think it will be a great one for us,” Akaroa District Promotions’ Jane Scribner says.

“I actually think we have the opportunity for this winter to be even bigger than previous winters.”

But local tourists won’t be enough to save every business.

Covid-19 meant Akaroa missed out on nine of the season’s 93 cruise ships as well as thousands of international visitors.

It’s a big blow for a town that relies on making money in summer to survive the long winters.

“At the moment we can only live day by day in survival mode,” Mr Waghorn says.

For some, winter is too far away. Bex Bryan’s gift shop is closing down, spending today packing up.

“The income is bleeding out on the streets and I just can’t continue,” she says.

“Without the tourists coming to Akaroa, it is definitely just too much of struggle to continue on.” 1 NEWS Read More: NZ’s Covid-19 tourism slump prompts ‘once in a lifetime’ motorhome deals – from $29 per day

To avoid more of that, the country’s biggest campervan provider is offering huge discounts in a bid to get their vehicles out of storage with Kiwis behind the wheel.

“Our motorhome tourists travel to more regions than the average tourist, about three or four times more regions, so that’s what this is all about,” Tourism Holdings chief executive Grant Webster says.

Akaroa is hoping its wilderness and charm, and streets free from the cruise customers, will entice people to visit.