Challenges ahead but plenty on offer in Kaikoura
Challenges ahead but plenty on offer in Kaikoura:
Despite the fact that Kaikoura is very much open for business and offers a warm welcome to visitors all year round, visitor arrivals are once again beginning to slow down with the approach of autumn. It’s a frustrating scenario for the town and a challenge for businesses.
Tourism Officer Annie Paterson believes that autumn and winter should be seen as providing additional reasons to visit rather than acting as deterrents. “At this time of year, Kaikoura welcomes the arrival of marine visitors from around the world. During March and April orca and pilot whales can often be seen, in May migrating humpbacks pass by on their journey north for the winter and from June to August groper spawn on the shelf bringing the Sperm whales close to shore. It’s a fantastic time for seabirds too with the summer population still in abundance prior to the winter migration” she says. In addition, Kaikoura’s land and air based activities are all operating and offering visitors unique experiences amongst some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, so from Whale Watching and Dolphin swimming to Maori tours and Sky diving the town has much to offer visitors.
What also shouldn’t be overlooked is wining and dining in Kaikoura with a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, bars, seaside stalls and bbq’s serving up a range of succulent food which includes seafood our local specialty.
The town experienced a large influx of visitors immediately following the Christchurch earthquake but business has now quietened down again. Uncertainty over the short to medium-term effects of the earthquake and the impact of losing the RWC matches in Christchurch is playing on the minds of many businesses in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura businesses have noted varying degrees of impact since the Christchurch earthquake with cancellations being experienced by many, some gaining from an influx of domestic travelers and others seeing significant retraction. Kauahi Ngapora COO, Whale Watch Kaikoura said “We had a short period of influx following the earthquake with travelers being misplaced but have since experienced a drop of over 30% as a result of events in Christchurch which has us now operating at winter levels 2 months earlier than had been expected; we are an important barometer for international tourism in our district and with around 70% of our clients coming to us from Christchurch any drop off in visitors there will obviously have a roll on effect with us here however, with so much uncertainty it is difficult to accurately forecast what will take place over the next 3-6 months and we remain optimistic that winter won’t get too deep but a cautious approach will be taken into this period, on a bright note new bookings continue to come in”. He also mentioned that a small number of cancellations had been received for the rugby world cup and although we still have a number of large tour group bookings given the games have now been moved tour itineraries will need to be reviewed meaning we could lose some of these but we are confident gains will be seen from FIT travelers.
Kaikoura has a range of transport options available from both Christchurch and Picton and can accommodate around 4000 visitors per day in commercial accommodation – this is a figure which some may find surprising but from quirky backpackers & spacious campgrounds to luxury apartments and homely B&Bs, the range of accommodation options provides something to suit all tastes and budgets with possibly one exception. Currently Kaikoura does not have hotel accommodation but this is about to change.
The Frontier Group, developers based in Christchurch, have been working on plans for a major new development for the wharf on the north side of the peninsula and a resource consent application has now been lodged. Stuart Chadwick from the Frontier Group when describing the development says that it will transform the wharf into “a vibrant visitor destination with accommodation, retail space, cafes/restaurants set against stunning mountain vistas and with unobstructed sea views on three of its four boundaries.” The traditional design of the buildings fits in with the history of the Wharf and its surroundings. At the heart of this development will be a five star hotel offering visitors panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains from the rooms.
With plans for a new museum and discussions on the development of an aquatic centre underway amongst other things Kaikoura has a lot to look forward to.