Expect a cavalcade of mobility homes and caravans through Waipā district this summer as domestic holiday makers explore their own back yards.
And the person likely to welcome them the most is Waipā councillor Hazel Barnes who told the Finance and Corporate committee on Tuesday she believed caravaners were a key to the district’s tourism future.
In his annual report to the council, Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson said annual visitor expenditure for Waipā rose 14 per cent in the year ended 30 June 2021.
Those visitors injected $138 million into Waipā’s economy (based on electronic card transactions).
Waipā District Council allocates $150,000 a year to the tourism organisation which also has service level agreements around activities and services it must provide to the district.
“We are seeing more New Zealanders than ever exploring our own back yard. But as we have seen with Waipā particularly, the attraction is for people to come and visit, stay, spend and shop locally,” said Dawson.
The Waikato Expressway brought Aucklanders closer to the region and Waipā capitalised on that, he said.
Success stories included Hidden Lake Hotel in Cambridge which opened weeks before the first lockdown and afterwards stood up for events and became visible to business visitors, said Dawson.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism partnered with New Zealand Motorhome and Caravan Association. Membership of the association ballooned in New Zealand post the first Covid lockdown.
A motorhome and caravan show at Mystery Creek later last year drew fantastic numbers, said Dawson.
“We do see more New Zealanders on long weekends coming into the region now,” said Dawson.
“We are seen as a desirable destination, Cambridge definitely as a motor home friendly town.”
Even though accommodation facilities lose out, the caravaners and motor homeowners spend on retail, they come to events and they spend on tourism attractions, he said.
“I feel quite uplifted after reading this report,” said Barnes.
“The caravan people, I see so many of them have taken this opportunity to get out and go and see things because there’s not much else, they can do.”
Barnes revealed Te Awamutu would soon join Cambridge as a motor home friendly town with a caravan park site in Pirongia Road.
“We won’t be far behind (Cambridge),” she said.
Deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk said the Hamilton and Waikato Tourism annual report gave a comprehensive snapshot of the district’s situation.
“We’re so blessed in Waipā that we rely mostly on domestic tourism.
“We’re very lucky as a district, we bounced back very very quickly after the first lockdown. I suspect this lockdown will be a little different as it’s got a longer tail. But once we get rolling again, we will be just fine,” she said.
Chair Andrew Brown said it was a great effort in very difficult circumstances and acknowledged Covid and its recovery was a “real challenge” for everyone in the tourism industry.
“Waipā is somewhat insulated, not relying on international tourism to a great extent, maybe it’s something we’d like to change in the future.”
Dawson has recently been appointed by the Government to a Regional Skills leadership group to develop regional workforce plans. The plans are due by May next year.
He is working closely with Cambridge Chamber of Commerce on a workforce plan for Waipā.
One of the workstreams is partnering with high schools on Gateway experiences to attract students into the services sector to fill workforce gaps.