Numbers show the benefit of visitors
Last week we shared the news that Central Otago had the highest visitor spend growth of any region in New Zealand at almost 20% for the year ending December 2021.
Most people will read that and assume the spend is all to the benefit of tourism operators, but is it really?
The data supplied by the Government tracks eftpos transactions.
The terminal will recognise if the card is from out of the region and will record it against one of eight different categories depending on the retailer.
Of the $124 million spent by visitors in Central Otago via eftpos terminals last year, $80 million was spent on retail.
Based on the Stats NZ average annual grocery bill for 2021, that is the equivalent of having an additional 7500 families of four living in the region year-round.
Of the remainder, hospitality accounted for $20 million, accommodation $15 million and tourism related activities just over $10 million.
I must acknowledge this data doesn’t capture online purchases, so accommodation and tourism activity total spend is higher as they are often purchased prior to arrival in a region.
That dispersal of cash is really important to understand.
It highlights the value visitors bring to keeping our entire economy ticking and our communities intact.
Sadly, we’ve already seen examples in Te Anau and Franz Josef where critical services to the community have been lost.
I know many local people directly and indirectly benefiting from visitors to Central Otago who are club volunteers, junior sport coaches, school bus drivers, board of trustee members and so on.
Those roles contribute to the fabric of our small communities right across Central Otago.
Visitors also bring vibrancy.
They make our cafes and streets feel alive and remind us constantly how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
We should think of visitors to the region as being like additional residents.
In the coming months we will likely see a drop-off in visitor numbers as Omicron bites.
As locals I hope we get out and support local businesses as much as we can to help fill the gap.
Once we get through this predicted wave, we’ll be looking to invite visitors back again and to share with them what makes this place special.
As we move to that phase, we’ll be searching for those visitors who love Central Otago for what it is.
Somewhere you can find yourself, but not too many others.