Wanaka shoulder season strong

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The season is not over yet but Wanaka businesses are already enjoying the benefits of a strong tourism shoulder season.

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore said figures revealing visitor numbers and tourist expenditure were yet to be released, but anecdotal reports suggested businesses across the board were benefiting from a solid season.

“All the reports I’ve heard have been very good.”

Some accommodation providers had reported they were operating close to full capacity, he said.

The two-week long Winter Games had also been positive for Wanaka tourism, he said.

The games included all major ski fields in the southern lakes district, and attracted 920 athletes from 39 countries.

Figures have yet to be released regarding the economic benefits, but after the event outgoing games chief executive Arthur Klap said international tourism dollars alone were expected to surpass $7.2million.

The committee is now lobbying to make the games an annual event, with a decision to be made by the end of the month.

Mr Helmore said having an annual event would boost the town’s profile as a skiing destination.

“There are a lot of huge positives, and if we had that every year, it would be fantastic.”

Tourists who visited the area for the Winter Games typically stayed longer in the area, which meant increased spending, he said.

This year, the games were moved to later in the ski season, from August 25 to September 9, which had also encouraged people to visit during off-peak times, he said.

“It makes the focus on the end of August/September.”

Spreading tourism numbers throughout the year had been an aim of Lake Wanaka Tourism, he said.

Having consistent tourism numbers year-round – as opposed to dramatic cycles with high and low visitor numbers – helped businesses know what to expect and plan accordingly.

It also allowed businesses to employ staff all year instead of seasonally, which boosted employment.

Shoulder seasons in Wanaka comprise September through to early November and the end of April through to early June.

Lake Wanaka Tourism was now looking ahead to a busy summer, but was also working on longer-term campaigns to encourage people to visit the area in autumn, he said.

Tourism in Wanaka has been in the spotlight lately.

The Department of Conservation has been upgrading infrastructure at the popular Roys Peak track to improve safety and accessibility, and figures released in July by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment showed visitors to the Upper Clutha now spend more than $500 million each year.