Visitor experiences boost tourism


Nicola Greenwell

It’s an exciting time to be involved in tourism in Hamilton and Waikato. After some challenging years, our region has bounced back strongly and there are some amazing new tourism and hospitality experiences emerging.

Just last month Made – a food, retail and creative precinct providing a colourful food and beverage and shopping experience opened in Hamilton East. This is a fantastic addition to our city, which is well and truly coming in to its own as a must-visit foodie New Zealand destination with other new eateries establishing themselves here as well over the last 12 months.

There’s also much to be excited about for arts and culture lovers too, with construction of the $80m Waikato Regional Theatre continuing on Victoria Street.

Pleasingly, we’ve also seen new accommodation popping up to support the growing number of people visiting the Waikato for leisure or business events. These include the boutique Te Karaka Lodge in north Waikato, and the impressive Clements Hotel in Cambridge.

Quality properties like these provide additional capacity throughout the region, helping to spread the load and alleviate some of the shortage of approximately 160 hotel rooms and serviced apartments identified in a hotel report published by Hamilton City Council at the end of last year.

Many people come to the Waikato for our open spaces and nature experiences, and there’s been a lot going on in this area over the past 12 months.

Hamilton’s Te Kāroro Nature Precinct launched in April, providing a conservation-themed visitor destination that combines Hamilton Zoo, Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, Hamilton Observatory and Everyday Eatery. This new precinct adds further to our region’s outdoor and nature credentials.

Te Awa River Ride

The 13-year project to create the 65km Te Awa River Ride finished at the end of last year, and now provides a continuous cycleway from Ngaruawahia to Karāpiro.

New cultural experiences have launched including Rangiriri Pā tours and Te Puna Wai Tours in Ngāruawāhia.

With domestic visitors spending $1,491 million in the region for the year to October, the fourth highest in the country, and international visitors spending $393m, the fifth highest in the country, it’s clear to see why there is interest in capitalising on the bright future of tourism in the region.

And we need to keep fostering this interest as there are gaps to fill in our regional visitor offering such as accommodation in Hamilton’s CBD and experiences around and on the Waikato River.  Tourism is the shop window for economic development.

Part of our role is to seek out and encourage new tourism related investment and support new operators when they are entering the sector, offering industry insights, statistics and advice. We have been working with several parties, large and small, keen to invest in experiences and accommodation in various parts of the region.

The new developments and strong interest in our region bode well for the future, as does our industry’s increasing focus on ensuring the return of visitors benefits our region environmentally, socially and culturally, as well as financially.

  • Nicola Greenwell is Chief Executive of Hamilton and Waikato Tourism.

About Author

Nicola Greenwell

Interim General Manager, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism