Traf­fic-stop­ping draw­card pays

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART

As chil­dren re­turn to school this week, Mata­mata busi­ness own­ers are re­flect­ing on the busiest Christ­mas and New Year pe­riod they can re­mem­ber.

Since the re­lease of The Hob­bit – An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney, a flurry of New Zealand and in­ter­na­tional tourists have de­scended on the town.

Ja­cob Hen­der­son, owner of the pop­u­lar Re­doubt Bar and Eatery, said the rush started early this year with the open­ing of the i-SITE Gate­house on Novem­ber 29.

‘‘That was the best day we have had in the six years we have been open,’’ he said.

Since then, the Re­doubt has had a steady flow of cus­tomers with an av­er­age of 30 a day here to visit Hob­biton.

‘‘It’s been great ... fan­tas­tic. They’re here on hol­i­day so they’re usu­ally pretty good cus­tomers – they’re happy and they’re rapt with Hob­biton so they’re in good spir­its,’’ he said.

Like­wise, Di­a­mond Jewellers has been cap­i­tal­is­ing on the rush of Tolkien fans with its range of hob­bit and Lord of the Rings jew­ellery.

Own­ers Neil and Joan Gibbs have had their busiest Jan­uary in years, spurred by a spike in in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors.

‘‘We have been very, very busy,’’ said Mr Gibbs.

‘‘What’s ex­cit­ing is, they are coming into town to go on the Hob­biton tour but then they stay and fil­ter round and have a look around town. peo­ple and I hoped that those peo­ple were able to ben­e­fit the rest of the town,’’ she said.

Ms Whit­ing said that with up to 750 peo­ple pass­ing through the i-SITE each day, they were look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­tend­ing the cen­tre and adding a third side to the fa­cade.

‘‘[ The Gate­house] has done ev­ery­thing we wanted it to do – it has stopped traf­fic. Ob­vi­ously it’s been fi­nan­cially worth­while to our busi­ness, which means it’s fi­nan­cially worth­while to the town.’’

Tony Voyce, owner of Broad­way Mo­tel, said num­bers for Jan­uary were up on pre­vi­ous years but he was not so quick to at­tribute them to Hob­biton.

‘‘We have had some Hob­biton vis­i­tors stay­ing but they tend to only come for the day or stay one night at most.’’

He said a rise in wed­dings held in Mata­mata over Christ­mas and New Year was more ben­e­fi­cial for ac­com­mo­da­tion providers.

Hamil­ton and Waikato Tourism chief ex­ec­u­tive Kiri Goul­ter said that though it was too early to look at ac­com­mo­da­tion statis­tics for De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, the num­bers for Septem­ber through to Novem­ber were pos­i­tive.

‘‘ Across the Mata­mataPi­ako district, ac­com­mo­da­tion num­bers were up 46.2 per cent in Septem­ber, 13.7 per cent in Oc­to­ber and 31 per cent in Novem­ber,’’ she said.

‘‘ That’s growth.’’

sig­nif­i­cant

Boom­ing: Mata­mata busi­nesses are reap­ing the ben­e­fits from tourists pour­ing into Mata­mata to visit Hob­biton.

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