A Word from Dylan Rushbrook, Tourism Central Otago general manager

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Residents the perfect advocates

Earlier this week, New Zealand’s border restrictions to visa-waiver countries were lifted, two years after a hard border closure saw the tourism industry shut overnight.

Allowing these visitors in is another step towards recovery for the tourism industry. Nobody is expecting visitor numbers to instantly return to anything like pre-Covid figures, with visitors still needing to jump though plenty of hoops.

Some predictions are it will take three years, others five and the more pessimistic tell us it will be 10 years until we see international arrivals and spend back to 2019 levels. Those in tourism are realistic as to what that means.

Short term we are hopeful of seeing some Australians visiting for ski season, and there will be some flow-on for Central Otago for those days not spent up the mountain.

But the expectation is that it will be spring before we see international visitors return to our region, albeit in limited numbers.

I’ve said it a lot already, but it is worth repeating.

The domestic market remains, and always will be, Central Otago’s key priority.

Regardless of where they come from, visitors are coming into a region that has really found its feet these past two years.

No longer in the shadow of its neighbours, Central Otago has built upon what was already here.

It has created a reputation as being a place to escape daily life and reconnect with loved ones while enjoying some of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in Aotearoa.

Central Otago has developed an assured confidence in what it offers to visitors and its communities.

It does not try to be everything to everyone, but instead recognises there are certain people this place will appeal to.

They are people who will love Central Otago for all it offers, just as residents love this place and why they are so proud to call it home.

The ideal visitor, regardless of their origin, is someone who sees themselves as a temporary resident.

Whether that is achieved in a day or a week, we want people to leave us with a sense of wanting more and a greater understanding of what Central Otago stands for.

Everyone in our communities has a critical role to play as hosts, ensuring visitors leave with that love of place. Whether providing directions to the best coffee, insider tips on the trails or the best place to go for that sunrise photo, we have a lot to share and be proud of. At the same time, we also have the chance to shape our tourism future by imparting our values to those visiting.

I encourage you to share your love of Central Otago and what it means to you and your whanau to live in your piece of paradise, rather than just giving directions and suggestions. By doing this we create lifetime advocates for our region and its communities.