Tourism dollars are good for all


Nicola Greenwell

Tourism is back and so is its impact on business in the Waikato.

With spring well and truly here in the Waikato as a tourism industry we now turn our attention to the coming Christmas and summer season, which is shaping up to be a busy one.

With the growing air connectivity from of key international markets, we are hearing of predictions of an influx of international visitors to our shores, and if the long-range weather forecasts materialise, we’re in for an extended and scorching summer. A sun-filled summer not only means more international visitors but also more New Zealanders exploring our beautiful backyard. In terms of numbers some are predicting higher than 2019 visitor numbers and if our recent months statistics are anything to go by then this could be correct.

In August, we welcomed an average of 51,000 visitors to the region each day. Of these, 88 per cent were domestic visitors and 12 per cent came from overseas.

In dollar terms, the impact of those numbers is significant. In the 12 months to the end of July, domestic and international visitors spent $757 million and $106.4 million respectively in the Waikato, according to Tourism Electronic Card Transactions data. Both are an increase on 2019 pre-Covid visitor spend – domestic spend showing an increase of 18% and international is up 13 per cent.

International visitor spend was up across all product categories compared to the same time last year, with particularly impressive growth in ‘cultural, recreation and gambling services’, such as concerts, festivals and other events, and ‘other tourism products’, such as guided experiences.

‘Retail sales – other’, which includes things like clothing, home appliances, electronics and books, has the highest share of both domestic and international tourism spend in the Waikato, at 26 per cent and 23 per cent of total spend respectively.

These figures demonstrate that the economic value tourism brings to our region stretches beyond those directly involved in tourism – accommodation providers, tourism operators and hospitality businesses. Tourism is generating growth and creating jobs for local businesses of all sizes such as mechanics, butchers, petrol stations, supermarkets and hairdressers.

As the organisation charged with promoting the Waikato to the world and converting interest and inspiration into action, we’re incredibly proud of our collective industry’s work behind these figures.

Alongside the region’s vibrant and talented communities, councils, tourism operators and other businesses, as well as national organisations like Tourism New Zealand, our team plays a key part in the success of tourism in the Waikato.

This year we’ve brought international travel media to the region to help showcase the Waikato on the world stage through hosting international broadcast media and influential travel sellers, and promoting the best the region has to offer to Kiwis through campaign activations. As well as launching a new Business Events Strategy and hosting leaders from New Zealand and Australia as part of the Ausae Linc Conference and offering educational opportunities for our tourism operators to upskill themselves in management and marketing practises.

And it’s paying off. While there is no clear data set, if we conservatively equate our efforts to just one per cent of the $757 million domestic and $106.4 million international visitor spend in the 12 months to the end of July, that’s a total of $8.6 million extra we would have brought into the region and put in the pockets of local community businesses, as well as accommodation providers, tourism operators and hospitality businesses.

But it doesn’t stop there. We recognise a thriving regional tourism industry is good for business and a thriving business community is good for tourism. Opportunities for tourism and business to continue to grow in the Waikato are abundant and I, for one, look forward to continuing to explore them.

  • Nicole Greenwell is the Chief Executive of Hamilton and Waikato Tourism.2023

About Author

Nicola Greenwell

Interim General Manager, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism