Kiwis are flocking back to holiday hotspots as wanderlust and the prospect of a summer free of Covid restrictions prompt a surge in bookings.
Holiday parks and campgrounds in South Island destinations from Te Anau to Nelson are already fully booked over Christmas and New Year’s and many are full through January.
Campground owners say local tourists are driving demand. International visitors are pouring in again, but not at pre-Covid levels.
Around this time last year, New Zealand was still facing restrictions from the Covid-19 mandate, including masks, vaccination certificates and border closures, and vaccination certificates. Masks were not mandatory at campsites, but many operators chose to require them.
* Campgrounds are booming at Taranaki resorts
* Holidaymakers travel to Stewart Island and Southland destinations
* More campsites are banning unvaccinated campers, but experts fear it could spread in the summer
The new campground Driftaway Queenstown.
Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park manager Neville Tozer said the popular New Year’s period – December 27 to January 4 – has long been fully booked. The surprise was the volume of November bookings and inquiries from last-minute vacationers.
“We’re way ahead of last year. People enjoy a bit of freedom and inspire it.”
“We have one or two nights here and there that aren’t fully booked yet. But even now we are 60-70% full, sometimes even 100%, per night.
“We can do 5 or 6% [of spots booked] we have no vacancies in the mornings and evenings.”
The Hawea Camping Ground is fully booked for the summer break.
The camp at Lake Hawea was also fully booked after a fairly constant winter from December 24th to mid-January.
Manager Karyn Abery said the travelers were mostly from New Zealand, but there were also some from Australia, Singapore, China, Thailand, the US and the UK.
“We could have filled the park twice this year. We get requests all the time and turn people away.”
Camp manager Karyn Abery says they have had to turn away campers as they are already fully booked for the summer.
In Southland, Te Anau has no camping spaces between December 30th and January 1st.
Wānaka Lakeview Holiday Park units and pitches were well booked throughout the New Year period.
“We filled up much earlier in the year than previous years as more international guests had pre-booked and had to clear locations to accommodate staff as they had nowhere to live,” said manager Natalie Ward.
The park has always allocated employees some space to linger, Ward said, but this year allocated more space than usual.
“Eighty percent of applicants need an apartment.”
In Canterbury, Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park was well booked from mid-December through the Waitangi weekend.
Kaiteriteri, near Nelson, had been fully booked for the holidays since May. Full capacity runs from December 23rd to the end of January.
On the west coast, Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park is fully booked from December 1st through the end of January. Hotels in the city already have no vacancies, which bodes well for the tourist city that has struggled through the pandemic.
Lake Hawea has always been a favorite spot for Kiwi and international travelers.
“Most of our cabins and houses are fully booked. There have been no vacancies in the last three weeks [signs] in the city’s hotels,” said manager Maatewa Ratu.
“It wasn’t like that last year. Now these tour groups come over and it’s great.”
Greymouth Top 10 Holiday Park also saw an increase in bookings and Kaikōura was at its strongest since the start of the Covid pandemic.
“We’re pretty busy … with regulars coming back,” said Kaikōura Top 10 receptionist Maggie Jasnos. “We’re pretty much booked.”