Tourism spending hit $26 billion for the year to March, but the Kaikoura earthquakes continued to pack a punch.
The annual visitor spend rose for all regions, with the fastest growth recorded on the West Coast, and in Nelson and Tasman, which were all up about 10 per cent.
Their gain was Kaikoura’s pain as visitors continued to by-pass the town which has been plagued by access issues following the November earthquake.
Visitor spending for the month of March fell $27 million in North Canterbury, down almost a third compared with the same period last year.
* Kaikoura businesses prepare for slow winter
* Tourism package to help promote quake-stricken Kaikoura
* Over 300 Kaikoura businesses seeking government help to survive post-quake
The bad news comes just as the Government wage subsidy claimed by more than 300 quake-hit Kaikoura businesses is due to end.
From the end of the month, those who wanting continued assistance will have to apply for it via a $1m recovery grant programme, justifying their need for the money and detailing how they will spend it.
Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura co-owner Lynette Buurman said many Kaikoura businesses closed down during the winter, and it was fair enough that the Government put some stringent conditions around further assistance.
“But $1m doesn’t sound like a lot”.
Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has also provided $870,000 to promote tourism in Kaikoura and the upper South Island, and Kaikoura District mayor Winston Gray said they were coming up with a plan on how to spend their share.
He said it was hard to know how things would pan out without the normal summer income to insulate businesses against the quieter winter months.
“The money is not landing in town that’s for sure. People are hanging in, but it’s a concern”.
However, Gray said the presence of 300 road workers, many of them living 500 metres from the centre of town in mining accommodation brought from Australia, would help food businesses.
“We have almost zero unemployment here, there are kids who have recently gotten jobs on the roads, that’s the upside”.