Half billion in income economy

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Tourists pumped more than half a billion dollars into the local Wanaka economy over the past year, an increase of $75million compared to the previous 12 months.

Monthly regional tourism estimates released by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment last week showed annual visitor spending increased from $427million for the year ended June 2016 to $502million for the year to June 2017.

Domestic visitors were the biggest spenders, injecting $189million into the economy last year, while Australian tourists spent $91million.

Spending from Chinese tourists has continued to rise, increasing from just $6million in 2012 to $49million in the past year.

Wanaka also led the country in terms of percentage growth in tourist spending during the past two years with a 20% increase in 2016 and a 17% increase this year.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said the outlook for the town was “stunning”.

“Wanaka is going gangbusters.

“It’s been recognised as a very special place, which we’ve known for a long time.

“I think the outlook is stunning.”

While the increased spending not only helped the local economy, with visitors injecting funds into a range of sectors, it also brought benefits when tourists travelled to surrounding areas.

“The exciting thing for Central Otago and Southland is that visitors are now more likely to get in their rental car and discover the surrounding areas.”

The Queenstown Lakes District was in a “happy place”, with significant amounts of tourism spending going to both Wanaka and Queenstown, he said.

Although visitor numbers had not brought any significant issues to Wanaka, the council would prepare a plan for downtown area to safeguard it against growth, similar to one for Queenstown, to improve parking, congestion, and facilities, he said.