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Hauraki Coromandel Tourism Economy At A Critical Point

The Coromandel tourism industry is counting on a busy summer after enduring 3 months of significantly reduced visitor numbers and spend. During this time the Hauraki Coromandel economy had the one of the largest decreases in visitor spend across the country, down 34% compared to August to October 2020. The only regions that fared worse were Auckland, Waikato and Northland.

The coming summer will be critical to tourism, hospitality and retail businesses throughout the region, which rely heavily on seasonal summer revenue for survival even in strong pre-COVID years.

Hahei Beach Resort General Manager Grant Kilby reports that the Auckland and Waikato lockdowns combined with travel reluctance from people in other regions for fear of being locked down away from home has resulted in unusually sparse bookings for this time of year. Furthermore, local businesses that rely on the holiday park's guests to thrive have also suffered. The upside is that summer is now looking exceptionally strong with pre- and post-Xmas camping and accommodation bookings coming in thick and fast. “The downtime has also allowed us to improve our offering, finetune our processes and plan for a stunning yet safe summer on the Coromandel coast,” says Grant.

Holiday towns along the Pacific coast saw the greatest drop in visitation, however Thames and towns in the Hauraki District were also impacted. Hauraki Rail Trail Trust Chief Executive Officer Diane Drummond confirmed that, like the rest of the Ngā Haerenga Cycle Trail network in New Zealand, the Hauraki Rail Trail had been relatively shock-resistant to the arrival of COVID-19. That was until Auckland and Waikato went into lockdown and rider numbers dropped to levels not seen since 2017. Diane explains, “November numbers to date are down 25% over the same period last year, however we are expecting a rebound as domestic border restrictions ease.”

While appreciative of local support, cafes and restaurants have found it hard going ever since international visitors stopped coming. Coromandel Town’s Josie Fraser, owner of Umu Cafe, is preparing for a tough summer ahead. Maintaining adequate staff numbers has been a constant stress, with the vaccination discussion adding another layer of complexity. “It’s been very quiet, reminiscent of the 1990s. But we know there’s a lot of out of town regulars who’ll be back to Umu when travel resumes.”

The characteristic optimism of customer focused business owners does shine through however. Leanne Jeffcoat, owner of Hike & Bike Coromandel remains positive. "The government subsidies have helped us however we no longer have one lovely horse float or our awesome boat, both sold to get us through and upsize our ageing van. If anything, this time has made us review and track our business better but all the while staying in the game in both the domestic and international markets."

Regional Tourism Organisation Destination Coromandel is anticipating a strong Christmas to New Year peak after which their Where Kiwis Holiday marketing campaign will focus on maximising regional benefit over a lengthened summer holiday period. Marketing Manager Megan Nunn delayed planned activity as lockdown in The Coromandel's main drive market regions was extended. “We continued to promote The Coromandel in Wellington and South Island cities however we put a lot on hold. We kept our powder dry and restarted campaign components as travel restrictions from our neighbouring cities eased up," says Megan. A new phase of Destination Coromandel's Where Kiwis Holiday campaign will commence early in 2022 with the aim of increasing travel through March and into Easter.

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