Demand for regional flights has been soaring post lockdown. Photo: Supplied.

Local tourism bouncing back

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With travel restrictions now lifted, the Nelson tourism industry is slowly beginning to rebuild from the damage lockdown created.

Visitor destination manager for the Nelson Regional Development Agency, Gisela Purcell, says you can’t get knocked back much further than to have no tourism at all. She says about 10 per cent of the local population is employed in the tourism industry.

“That is significant, and it has been a massive hit for a lot of people with some having reduced hours or even made redundant.”

However, now we are reopening, Gisela says the evidence is showing people are starting to travel again. She says with local support, it shouldn’t be long before the sector is thriving again.

“People are exploring their own backyard which is very encouraging to see.”

Gisela says hospitality has managed to bounce back faster with people catching up with friends and family at bars, cafés and restaurants in Levels Three and Two.

But they are also starting to see more domestic travel within the region as locals try to support locals struggling from the Covid-19 crisis.

“The whole visitor sector needs help and we are so lucky here, we are not a region with one iconic activity from oceans to mountains, art galleries, wineries, breweries and cycling tracks, everything is close and we are so diverse.”

The NRDA carried out a tourism survey during lockdown and received a strong response.

“We got 832 replies, and 97 per cent say tourism brings some benefits to the region, everyone sees it is good for Nelson.”

Nelson-based airline Originair resumed flights last Friday in time for people to travel for Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

CEO Robert Inglis says there has been a strong demand for seats however they are only able to run at about 66 per cent capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“We can’t meet all the demand because of the physical distancing rules, we are not selling aisle seats which reduces our capacity, so we weren’t able to help some people last weekend.”

Despite the financial blow, Robert says he is delighted to be back in the sky.

“We are obviously pleased to be able to start again, we have a great little team and I’m very happy for them to be able to continue the operation.”

Originair offers direct flights to Wellington and Palmerston North which Robert says appeals as it offers a gateway to the North Island.

“By taking that sector you can access most places by car very easily.”

His hope is people will use it as a ‘leapfrog’ and rent a car to go skiing in Taupo or wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay.

Robert is confident Nelson tourism can bounce back.

“It’s obviously going to be affected by the international tourists not being able to visit the region. So that sector is not going to be present but hopefully with government initiatives we will be ok.”