Traffic-stopping drawcard pays
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.’’
Booming: Matamata businesses are reaping the benefits from tourists pouring into Matamata to visit Hobbiton.