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New Zealand is back on the world map and the welcome mats are out.

But some welcome mats never really went into storage during Covid times because affluent New Zealanders decided to experience the high life on a high country station rather than make memories in Morocco or New York.

Last month Lindis Group managing director William Hudson, of Auckland said the two
South Island luxury lodges he manages – The Lindis in the Ahuriri Valley, and Mt Isthmus, at Lake Hawea – had experienced “super-positive”and repeated support over the last two years from well-heeled Kiwis seeking out isolated getaways.

There is little data on“high-end” tourism spending in New Zealand by the wealthy, but there are 225,487 Kiwi millionaires (6.3% of the population), according to a Credit Suisse report in 2021.

Mr Hudson confirmed his clientele could be described as “the low-volume, high-value tourist” and the company’s offerings were targeted to those who could afford to pay premium prices of between $1695 and $3500 a night for a room (couple’s rate).

Advance bookings showed the company was still seeing strong support from New Zealanders, as well the return of the traditional market.

After the announcement borders would open from May 23, lodge bookings for this winter were tracking “quite nicely”, at between 60% to 70% up on what they were when the company was just marketing to the domestic market, he said.

The influx of visitors were from the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.

“Certainly it looks positive compared to the last couple of years that our industry has experienced,” he said.

“New Zealanders as a whole are an incredibly well-travelled population. [The commodity] became a Central Otago pinot noir in front of a fire place whereas before they would have a trip planned to somewhere else, to Morocco or New York or where-ever.

“I think they travelled in the same vein as they would have offshore, and they still wanted to celebrate occasions such as birthdays,” Mr Hudson said.

Luxury lodge . . .The Lindis Lodge, in the Ahuriri Valley (Ben Avon), is owned by the Lindis Group. Photo: SUPPLIED

The Lindis Group also owns a lodge and vineyards in the North Island.

Pre-Covid-19, New Zealand was attracting about 3.8 million visitors a year, worth $17 billion in earnings for the country.

During Covid-19, debate raged over whether tourism should be regenerated through strategies to attract “high net value” tourists (millionaires)over “high volume” tourists (backpackers on a budget).

Asked about what made a high-value visitor, Mr Hudson said tourists should not be labelled
and all tourists represented value to the industry in different areas.

He was looking forward to the entire industry “coming back stronger”.

“Whilst our particular business is targeted towards the higher value part of the market, many of our clients are return visitors to New Zealand, where they may have travelled previously at a `different price point’ for example . . .

“All our clients are just as likely to visit a great country coffee shop as they are to dine at an inner city fine dining establishment,” he said.

The Lindis Group did not seek any Government-funded support during Covid but introduced changes to adapt.

Those included improving lodge facilities and experiences and upskilling staff.

A stand-alone, villa-style lodge near Moke Lake was sold about a year ago but Mr Hudson
confirmed The Lindis Group was scouting for more development opportunities.

“We are quite biaised to that region [Queenstown]. We absolutely love it. But we are looking through New Zealand for other opportunities . . . We don’t know what that looks like and we are in no rush,” Mr Hudson said.

The Lindis Group currently employs about 45 fulltime people, mostly Kiwis. The number fluctuates depending on the season, he said.