Cash­ing in on sum­mer tourist in­va­sion

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - MIKE BAIN AND REXINE HAWES

‘‘We have been so busy. A few nights we closed early be­cause we ran out of chips and fresh fish.’’

Tourism is shap­ing up to pro­vide a bumper eco­nomic sum­mer sea­son for busi­nesses op­er­at­ing out of Mata­mata.

A snapshot of ac­tiv­ity from Mata­mata’s i-SITE and a few busi­nesses around the town showed it had been a phe­nom­e­nally busy cou­ple of weeks wel­com­ing vis­i­tors from all over the world.

The draw­card re­mains the Hob­biton movie set, where some vis­i­tors had been turned away be­cause of lim­ited ca­pac­ity.

Mata­mata i-SITE man­ager Sue Whit­ing ex­pects high vol­umes of vis­i­tors to con­tinue to mid-April.

And while that was good news for the town, she said the i-SITE had been af­fected by the in­crease in on­line book­ings by vis­i­tors.

It lim­ited the choices the i-SITE had to book for vis­i­tors to its shop in the mid­dle of town.

‘‘A huge num­ber of tourists are us­ing tech­nol­ogy to book ad­ven­tures and ac­com­mo­da­tion ahead of vis­it­ing the region to en­sure they don’t miss out. This is hav­ing a huge im­pact on our busi­ness,’’ said Whit­ing.

‘‘The re­al­ity is, on­line book­ings will im­pact our busi­ness, re­duc­ing in­come and pos­si­bly lead­ing to the in­abil­ity to fund our planned projects go­ing for­ward.’’

Many Mata­mata busi­nesses have ben­e­fited from peo­ple vis­it­ing the Hob­biton movie set. Tourists have stopped in town to shop and en­joy cafes.

Broad­way Burger Bar owner Maria Hamil­ton said Mata­mata was def­i­nitely busier over Christ­mas and New Year.

‘‘We have been so busy. A few nights we closed early be­cause we ran out of chips and fresh fish.’’

Hamil­ton said the chat­ter among other eater­ies was that town was par­tic­u­larly chaotic.

‘‘The roads have been busy, you couldn’t get a park up town.’’

She couldn’t at­tribute the rise in spend­ing to any­thing in par­tic­u­lar but said the fine weather could be a driver.

Deb­o­rah Now­ell, owner/op­er­a­tor of For­get Me Not Florist on Arawa Street agreed.

There was a steady flow be­fore Christ­mas lead­ing into the New Year.

Hol­i­day­mak­ers have also strug­gled to find beds with mo­tel and back­packer ac­com­mo­da­tion at a pre­mium.

O’Riellys Mo­tel Man­ager Nappe Tan is check­ing with other mote­liers daily to see who has va­can­cies.

‘‘There has been lim­ited room since the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber,’’ she said.

Vis­i­tor num­bers to Hob­biton are ahead of last year’s fig­ures and gen­eral man­ager Rus­sell Alexan­der is hope­ful it con­tin­ues.

‘‘It’s still early in the sea­son for us hav­ing just start­ing our sum­mer on Box­ing Day which will go through to Easter, but it’s a great start,’’ he said.

Alexan­der said Hob­biton has lim­ited ca­pac­ity with the num­ber of tourists it can process and ad­mit­ted some tourists have had to be turned away.

Fine weather fore­cast for Mata­mata is set to con­tinue and will at­tract vis­i­tors to events, in­clud­ing the Ro­tary Mata­mata Con­cert by the Lake in Fe­bru­ary.

There are also three ma­jor re­unions in March ex­pected to put pres­sure on ac­com­mo­da­tion in the first quar­ter.

SUP­PLIED

An­other bus loaded with tourists heads to Hob­biton as Mata­mata ex­pe­ri­ences what could be its busiest sum­mer. Maria Hamil­ton

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