The holiday period promises to be as busy as previous years for Central Otago holiday parks, with many camping grounds either fully booked or close to it with only a few vacancies left.

Many of the camping ground managers and owners who talked to The News said numbers were looking good, with peak arrivals starting from December 21 through to early January and many guests coming from Dunedin and Southland.

Alexandra Holiday Park owner/manager Janice Graham said she was “pretty much” fully booked and could cater for about 1500 at peak.

“I hope we have nice sunny weather for nice sunny dispositions,” she said.

She had added another nine cabins last season so there were about 30 available, with most being used by older visitors.

However, while she expected to be busy during the holiday period, she had noticed a slight reduction in numbers compared with previous years, because of changes in work commitments and more people preferring to freedom camp rather than use commercial facilities.

“People only get so much money to spend, so why spend it here [at holiday parks] when they can stay for free by the lake?” she said.

Some freedom campers try to sneak in to use the facilities but they kept a close eye on them.

Clyde Holiday Park leasee Gary Ryan said he had good numbers from about December 21 to about mid-January.

“Numbers are similar to last year and we were pretty full last year,” Mr Ryan said.

“We have had our regulars coming here for 50 years.”

He was aware some freedom campers had been sneaking into the holiday park to use the facilities without paying.

“I am mindful of that,” he said.

Omakau Recreation Reserve committee member Colin Stevenson said bookings for the camp were slightly up on last year, with a lot of last-minute queries.

His wife Mandy Stevenson runs Mandy’s Accommodation in Omakau.

She said while bookings were about the same as last year, there was a rush just after Christmas because of the local races.

“We are also getting a lot more Australian bookings coming through so that market is getting bigger.”

Naseby Holiday Park operator Beth Connell said they also had good numbers.

“This is only our second year of ownership,” she said.

“We have had two good years, year on year for the whole Christmas period.”

She said they had noticed there were not as many British travellers coming through.

Ranfurly Holiday Park operator Shelley Lowe is a former school teacher from Auckland, and moved to the business last year.

She said bookings were up this year.

“We are fuller earlier than this time last year,” she said.

Clutha Gold Cottages and Holiday Park operator Christine Bennenbroek said they also had good numbers, although there were fewer people booking who were coming to pick fruit than in previous years.

“But the weather hasn’t helped,” she said.

“We are lucky as we get a lot of repeat people who book again [for the next year], as they are packing up.”

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