By NICOLE SHARP
Central Otago is gearing up for another stellar tourism season this summer, with a new touring route proposed and a busy schedule of events, tourism leaders in the region say.
Celebrating food and wine in the region, Cromwell’s annual Food and Wine Festival is a big drawcard for visitors each year.
It is followed by a host of race meets in Omakau, Roxburgh and Cromwell, making the region a hive of activity in early January.
Sport activists from all over are also set to visit the area during the summer season, with multi-sport races organised for throughout January and later in the year.
With its busy schedule year round – peaking in summer – Central Otago will soon also be linked to other Otago areas, through its recognised touring route.
Earlier this month the Central Otago District Council (CODC) announced it had given the go-ahead for the next stage of establishing a recognised self-drive touring route.
The proposed route will link Central Otago to Queenstown and also Dunedin, through the Maniototo and Strath Taieri.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was an initiative with great potential to increase tourism in the region.
The proposed route would add a new dimension to Central Otago’s tourism offerings, he said.
“In the same way that the Otago Central Rail Trail has stimulated new investment, economic growth and development, the proposed touring route would provide visitors with ideas and information that will enable them to get out and explore more of our district and our ‘world of difference’.”
Mr Cadogan said initial conversations with the New Zealand Transport Agency had also been encouraging, as the agency had indicated a willingness to partner with the Central Otago District Council to fund the development of the route.
Tourism Central Otago (TCO) acting general manager Glenys Coughlan said the idea of a touring route had been in TCO’s plans for a few years and it was pleasing to see the groundwork being completed.
“The New Zealand tourism industry’s ‘Tourism 2025’ strategy has a strong focus on attracting visitors throughout the year to smooth out the peaks and troughs in seasonal visitation.”
This was an issue Central Otago faced in the summer season as visitors travelled to the region from all over the country, as well as from overseas.
The touring route would enable TCO to promote Central Otago further, she said.
With the increase in visitors to the area, it was expected retailers in the district would also have a positive season.