‘Worst sum­mer in 24 years’ for top of south


A back­pack­ers lodge owner has lamented the ‘‘worst sum­mer in 24 years’’ as the top of the south starts the year with a drop in guest nights.

Marl­bor­ough’s av­er­age guest nights de­creased by 3.4 per cent in Jan­uary while Nel­son and Tas­man dropped 8.8 per cent in fig­ures re­leased by the Ministry of Busi­ness In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment.

Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough be­lieved it may have been due to ‘‘un­cer­tainty’’ over high­way clo­sures.

The Villa Back­pack­ers owner Rob Burn said this sum­mer was the worst sea­son in his time of own­ing the busi­ness.

‘‘We nor­mally run at 100 per cent oc­cu­pancy [in Jan­uary]. In the Jan­uary [2017] af­ter the road closed we ran at 91 per cent and the last Jan­uary that’s just gone we were down to 77 per cent.

‘‘That was heart­break­ing for me,’’ Burn said.

He be­lieved the lower oc­cu­pancy was be­cause of ‘‘dis­rup­tors’’ such as Airbnb and free­dom camp­ing.

‘‘We couldn’t see what we had done wrong, it’s not as if our prices were any dif­fer­ent. We have dy­namic prices which went up and down with de­mand which is nor­mal, we fol­low what oth­ers are do­ing.

‘‘A lot of the cou­ples that used to stay in our pri­vate rooms pay­ing $70 or $80 a night, they are now do­ing Airbnb and it’s a sim­i­lar price,’’ Burn said.

In the Jan­uary re­port, the Ministry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment said back­packer ac­com­mo­da­tion providers suf­fered the most in Marl­bor­ough. Guest nights at back­pack­ers dropped by 21.7 per cent com­pared to the same month last year.

Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough gen­eral man­ager Jac­qui Lloyd said while oc­cu­pancy was down, spend­ing was up.

‘‘I would haz­ard a guess that it would be due to the road clo­sure. Peo­ple would still be look­ing at their travel plans and how they would work their travel times.

‘‘Since the road has opened our vis­i­tor spend­ing is up 2 per cent. We have been on the neg­a­tives through­out last year. For month- on-month spend we are up 13 per cent ahead of Jan­uary 2017,’’ Lloyd said.

But for Burn the vis­i­tor spend had not been ev­i­dent.

‘‘Parts of the month were OK and on some nights we’re full or al­most full, and other nights we’re won­der­ing where peo­ple are.

‘‘Free­dom camp­ing hasn’t been well man­aged at all, we’ve had a very good ranger in Mur­ray Mor­gan, [but] as soon as he goes they all come back be­cause they are all highly mo­bile, highly con­nected and it’s just a game where no-one wants to pay,’’ Burn said.

The Marl­bor­ough Lodge gen­eral man­ager Peter White said the lower fig­ures did not trans­late to what he was see­ing at his ho­tel.

‘‘Cer­tainly for us, last sum­mer we were a brand new busi­ness so this sea­son we had a lit­tle time to ma­ture and grow.

‘‘Our numbers are sig­nif­i­cantly up on what we did last year. But even talk­ing to other hote­liers, they’ve said they have had a re­ally good time so I’m sur­prised the numbers are a bit down.’’

White said the sum­mer was boosted by in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, par­tic­u­larly from the US.

‘‘The in­ter­na­tional tourists that have been com­ing through and spend­ing sig­nif­i­cant money in Marl­bor­ough, there’s been strong growth there.

‘‘Jan­uary started off re­ally busy, we had a lit­tle lower to­wards the sec­ond half of Jan­uary and that’s nor­mal be­cause our in­ter­na­tional clients travel very strong in the last week of De­cem­ber to the first 10 days of Jan­uary,’’ he said.


Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough gen­eral man­ager Jac­qui Lloyd said un­cer­tainty over road clo­sures could have added to the drop in guest nights.

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