Airlines help boost tourism

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Nelson Airport has recorded a dramatic 23 per cent increase in the number of passengers flying in and out of the region, helping fuel the region’s bumper tourism season.

Nelson Airport chief executive Rob Evans says the passenger numbers jumped by 16,000, from 67,293 in December 2014 to 83,261 in December 2015 – a new record for the airport.

It’s on the back of three new airlines operating to the region and it’s having a wide impact, with representatives from tourism, retail, food and accommodation sectors all saying it’s been the best tourism summer for years.

Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene says that “Nelson is shining,” and has received nothing but positive feedback from all sectors.

“Despite a bit of rain, it’s going fantastic – it’s been bumper season so far.”

She says the city and retail area are “absolutely buzzing,” and foot traffic at Nelson i-SITE was up 15 per cent this summer, which indicates that there have been more visitors to the region, and numbers are already tracking ahead for January.

“We’ve had visitors from all countries around the world. We’re really lucky with the Mapua and Kaiteriteri developments, which have also been very busy.”

She says the launch of new airlines Jetstar, Originair and Kiwi Regional Air in 2015 has definitely made an impact on tourist numbers this summer.

Tasman’s Great Taste Cycle Trail has also proved to be a popular summer attraction, with trail counters recording 13,000 users during the 11 day Christmas and New Year period compared with 9000 for the previous year.

Chair of the Nelson Tasman Cycle Trust Gillian Wratt says Kaiteriteri is a particularly popular section, with user numbers tripling, compared with this period 12 months ago.

“The whole thing is ticking over nicely and businesses along the cycle trail are reaping the benefits.”

Nicky McBride of Wheelie Fantastic, located at Mapua, says they’ve had a big increase of international cyclists.

“We expect numbers to continue to grow. It is our fifth season and it is shaping up to be our busiest.”

Tahuna Beach Holiday Park general manager Marcel Fekkes says that they have been “totally chocca,” and it’s the first time in years that they’ve had to turn people away.

“It’s definitely busier than last year,” he says. “We’ve had an influx of international visitors this year, and a lot more walking traffic too – people have been wandering in asking for sites.”

Motel Association of New Zealand Nelson branch administration officer John Gilbertson says the region’s motels have also been busy of the statutory break, but says it’s too early to tell what the season in total is going to be like.

“It’s been going well, and we’ve been busy so far,” he says. “We are predicting that the new airlines will make a difference.”

The Abel Tasman National Park is also proving to be a hot spot, with a surge of both international and kiwi visitors this summer.

Brendan Alborn, owner of Abel Tamsan Aqua taxi says they have been busier than year, which he puts down to a combination of the New Zealand dollar being weak, better promotion from the tourism sector, and more kiwis out and about doing activities and spending more.

“It’s been a fantastic season,” he says. “There have just been so many people around. The season started early and kicked on – it’s been crazy.”

He says the recent rain hasn’t made any impact on business either.

“People tend to either guts the rain out, or pay attention to the forecast,” he says. “After a rainy day we’ll be inundated with people, so it averages out.”

Vic Brew Bar general manager Phil Williams says the bar had an earlier start to the season and that his staff have noticed more overseas tourists this year.

And it seems the good times may not be coming to an end just yet. Lynda says winter is also shaping up to be busy, especially with the arrival of Jetstar’s Nelson to Wellington flights and the return of some events, such as Light Nelson.

“Were in really good shape, and it’s looking to be a better winter than last year.”

Rob Evans says he’s been stuck by the how many people are in the airport throughout the day. “It’s just the consistency of it. We’re busy from the moment we open up at 6am right through to the last flight. It gets a bit cosy in here at times but it’s a good news story that shows the confidence in the region.”

He says car rentals at the airport have also had a record month.