Bay of Plenty businesses looking forward to a busy summer with return of international tourists

Mount Maunganui Beach Resort Manager Mark Hales. Photography / Mid Norton

Businesses in the Bay of Plenty are expecting a “busy summer” without Covid restrictions and with open international borders.

However, some are finding it difficult to recruit employees and have noticed a decrease in local spending due to the cost of living crisis.

Mount Maunganui Holiday Park manager Mark Hales said bookings were looking “very good” for the summer holiday. About 85% were local orders and the rest international.

“We’re actually full in the Christmas New Year period.”

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Hales said he was looking forward to a “busy summer” and seeing everyone enjoying themselves after the past two years of Covid closures and restrictions.

By November, Hales had already started seeing overseas guests moving around in campervans and staying a few nights at the holiday park.

“That’s excellent…I haven’t seen that in a few years.”

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Mark Hales said he was looking forward to
Mark Hales said he was looking forward to a “busy summer”. Photography / Mid Norton

Zealandier Tours Mt Maunganui owner Ian Davies said bookings for the summer had been “insane” with international tourists coming from America, Australia and the UK.

“We’re trying to recruit more employees – like everyone else, it’s a challenge.”

But she was confident that she would get the required number of staff for the season.

Davies said a lot of their work before Covid was cruise ship clientele.

“We have to work with all our attractions and the other suppliers who are struggling… so it’s not easy. It’s all about having to work together literally hand in hand with everyone in the industry to rebuild it.

“We just want to give tourists coming to New Zealand a good experience when they come here so we have to work very hard to make sure that happens.”

Ashleigh Gee - Owner of Miss Gee's bar and restaurant in Tauranga.  Image / provided
Ashleigh Gee – Owner of Miss Gee’s bar and restaurant in Tauranga. Image / provided

Miss Gee’s bar and restaurant owner Ashleigh Gee said she had hired extra staff to prepare for the busy summer period but had noticed ticket sales for major events had dropped.

“And I think it’s just the pinch of inflation that’s hitting people’s bank accounts.

“I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in people’s spending in terms of going out to accommodation and not going often, but when they do, they’re still spending.”

She hoped that international tourists might help make up for less domestic spending.

Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty accommodation sector chairman and owner of Tauranga’s Cameron 850 Motel Tony Bullot said accommodation providers were looking forward to the summer and it was “great” to see overseas tourists booking three to four months in advance.

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But the problem was a lack of staff, he said.

“I think every sector in the whole country is struggling for staff at the moment and that’s the biggest shame. When tourism happens during the summer, so many cafes and restaurants and accommodation [providers] They are going to get caught because they just can’t serve like they used to.

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“That’s definitely the biggest challenge – people want to do what they can and do the best for the tourists, but really, everyone’s running on a fat rag and after a few tough years and a lot of stress and pressure, it’s one more thing up for sure.”

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Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Cowley. Photo / Mid Norton

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said international tourists this summer were close to pre-Covid levels, which cruise lines were already indicating.

“The businesses that operate in the summer know that international and local visitors are coming. They are hoping for good weather, people who want to work, reliable supply chains and a bit of good luck. Businesses plan for peak demand around events, festivals and visiting cruise ships.

“People around the world have an appetite to travel again, although most people are facing a cost-of-living crisis at home and travel costs have increased, for example fuel and crew shortages.”

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But lost income from the past two and a half years could not be recovered, he said.

“Once a bed is not rented, you can’t charge more the next night. You can only charge what the market is willing to pay.

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“However, a good summer period for those more seasonal industries, such as tourism and hospitality, will increase their cash balances to help them get through the quieter winter months.”

Bay of Plenty Tourism chief executive Oscar Nathan said the “peak summer” would last much longer this year because international visitors would return.

“When New Zealanders return to work in the second week of January and children start back to school at the end of that month, international visitors will still be arriving to stay in hotels, motels and holiday parks, and this will make a significant difference to the entire visitor sector.”

Nathan said the area will be “pumped” from December 23rd to January 8th.

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It also saw increases in bookings for Auckland’s anniversary weekend and the Black Caps’ test match against England cricket in February, with the Waitangi weekend expected to be overbooked.

Bachcare’s head of revenue, Nick Pearce, said his booking figures showed Mt Maunganui, Papamoa and Taupo were among the most popular New Year destinations. Forward bookings for short-stay itineraries in Rotorua have increased by 95 per cent, as international tourists turn to holiday home rentals in cities with limited accommodation infrastructure.

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