Holiday bookings expected to taper off

New Zealanders have been making unprecedented efforts to book early for a Wanaka winter holiday and now the Aussies are keen to show up, too.

However, Infometrics’ most recent quarterly economics report says the post-Covid surge in domestic spending is petering out and Australians were expected to make shorter visits to New Zealand this year.

Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said yesterday the report pointed to a faltering in the overall economic recovery and divergence across the regions.

“The opening of the transtasman bubble is unlikely to be the panacea hoped for, although it will provide a much-needed boost to our hardest hit tourism regions,” Mr Olsen said.

Wanaka accommodation provider Peter Sutherland said New Zealanders began booking winter holidays in January, when they usually left it until the last minute.

That had resulted in heavy apartment bookings during June and July, when skifields open and Australian and New Zealand schoolchildren go on holiday.

“We have found groups and families have booked quite early this year. They are organised and want to ensure they don’t miss out … [and] we’ve had a top up of Australians since the borders reopened,” Mr Sutherland said.

Mr Sutherland operates The Moorings in Wanaka and can host up to 85 people a day.

Apartments were particularly heavily booked but smaller studio units were not. That was not surprising, because studios appealed to couples, who would wait to see what the snow was like before committing, he said.

“I can only speak for our business but I do keep in touch with others and I believe they are in a similar position … I would suggest apartment accommodation through Wanaka would be like ours – heavily booked,” Mr Sutherland said.

Wanaka’s holiday home rental market is also reporting a positive lift in winter bookings.

Bachcare spokeswoman Zaina Razzaq said yesterday holiday home rentals in ski centres like Wanaka were almost at full capacity and could reach capacity within a few weeks.

Ms Razzaq said Bachcare’s figures showed rentals in ski areas were already more than twice as high as in 2019 (pre-Covid).

“What we can see from the latest figures is that the benefits of the transtasman bubble are now flowing through … we are now moving beyond Australian-based families reuniting with their Kiwi relatives and are seeing more of the seasonal skiers and winter holiday makers confirming their stays here,” she said.

Forward bookings in Queenstown were up 115% on 2019, while Wanaka bookings were already at 85% capacity, compared to 72% capacity in 2019, Ms Razzaq said.

Infometrics economist Nick Brunsdon said New Zealanders’ “heroic” spending could not make up for the loss of international spending.

“Overall, the domestic tourism boost in the first quarter of 2021, from a year earlier, amounted to an extra $494 million, compared to a loss of $834 million in international spending,” he said.