Tim Barke: Tourism- the state of play

Tim Barke is the general manager of Lake Wānaka Tourism. Credit: op.ac.nz

On Tuesday the Wānaka Sun interviewed Tim Barke, general manager of Lake Wānaka Tourism (LWT) to get his view on the state of play of tourism in our town.

So did we see a surge of tourists over the school holidays?

There was an excellent boost to domestic tourism over the school holidays- in fact, more domestic tourists than we had this time last year, which was good.

It has quietened off a bit this week, but we are starting to see more of the older demographic coming through. The people coming in now are the ones who were trying to avoid the school holiday.

With that demographic, they are targeting the wine and food, cycling, a variety of different stuff. A lot are wanting to do more scenic touring and food, and wine is a significant factor. Others do some jet boat riding or sky diving and some of the adventure activities. But in general, they tend to be less the adrenaline market as opposed to some of the other demographics that come through at different times of the year.

And what about the adrenaline market?

That is still ticking over. The operators are all getting more domestic visitors than they have in the past, but this isn't filling the void of the international market. The operators are still  down in numbers

Pretty much everybody is down in numbers and are hanging out to get the Australian bubble open as soon as possible- that will help significantly.

The adrenaline outfits- are  Kiwis willing to pay what an overseas visitor would pay?

Most places have some specials going. Some have held their prices. A lot depends on the cost of operating- some activities like helicopter rides- it costs a lot to keep a helicopter in the air.  But there are deals out there, and most operators have one discount or the other that they are offering to the domestic market.  And that has been widely taken up by people who are coming to stay.

What about other activities on offer?

The I-site girls are putting together a "food on a bike" tour just around the local area; tourists can go on a guided or unguided tour with wineries and different food outlets, and this has been pretty popular.

There are lots of operators trying to think outside the square and how they can connect different types of activities so that they can provide an excellent experience for the visitor while supporting as many operators as possible.

It's the end of the ski season. Are there fewer tourists around?

We are going into a quieter period now, which is a natural part once the ski fields close- it does get a little slower for a couple of weeks.

Then you get a different type of consumer mobilising and travelling as it starts to warm up. A lot of people in campervans are beginning to show up, and these will explore a fair bit. That's when the "grey nomads" get out and about and go and visit friend and relatives as well as touring.

Who are out there doing this?

There are over 100,000 foreign tourists still in New Zealand who haven't left. A lot of people are just staying – one thing that will be interesting to know with the Australian bubble opening up is whether these visitors leak out over to Australia.

It's become an annual habit. Event planners are looking at a new type of package based around food and wine- core places to visit and taste- but other activities for a higher economic market where there will be a whole bunch of different activities and options which they might do with helicopters for instance

Tourist operators are thinking outside the square as to what specific segments of the kiwi tourist market want to do.

The big aim for these tour operators is to generate revenue and also to attract people to the region who are going to be a good fit with the products and community we have. And then we want them to come back.


Read edition 997 of the WānakaSun here.

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