Games hailed best yet

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The New Zealand Winter Games committee is celebrating what may be the most successful Games yet, with international tourism dollars alone expected to surpass $7.2million.

Held from August 25 to September 9, the fifth two-yearly event attracted 920 athletes from 39 countries.

Winter Games NZ chief executive Arthur Klap said the number of athletes was significantly higher than the 445 competitors in the 2015 event. The most reliable comparison was the 2013 Games, he said, which was also a pre-Olympic year.

International spending for the 2013 Games came to $7.2million.

While there were no concrete figures so soon after this year’s event, anecdotal evidence suggested the games would at least match that figure and bring large economic benefits to the Queenstown and Wanaka areas.

On top of that figure was income from domestic tourists and media.

The event was tipped early on to be one of the best, in terms of athletes and tourism dollars for the regions.

Before the event, it was revealed the Chinese team had booked accommodation in Wanaka until the end of October, which equated to 4200 bed nights.

Mr Klap said tourists seemed to be staying longer in nearby towns, which meant tourism dollars were going back into local economies.

Spectator numbers seemed to be consistent with other years, he said, although previous figures from Cardrona indicated a 30% increase in customers on Winter Games days, he said.

This year was also the first in which all major skifields in the Southern Lakes district were included in the programme, along with curling competitions held at the Maniototo Ice Rink.

“It becomes a really good promotion of what the whole district has to offer.”

Moving the event to late August and early September also helped to promote spring skiing.

A total of 130 media outlets were registered to cover the event. Mr Klap said it had gone from having no Australian media coverage to up to 20 minutes on Fox Sports.

“On all fronts we believe it’s been the most successful Winter Games.”

The committee hoped to make the Games an annual event, starting from next year and a final decision was likely to be made by November.