Auckland businesses hopeful this holiday season as CBD foot traffic surges

Aucklanders are getting in the festive spirit and heading to the city centre.

Pedestrian counters have measured a substantial boost in footfall for the area over the first 10 days of the holiday season, and businesses are feeling hopeful.

Foot traffic is up on Auckland's Queen Street this festive season.

"Since the start of the Christmas festivities, the first 10 days we had over 1.8 million people counted here - that's more than the population of Auckland," Heart of the City CEO Viv Beck said.

It's an increase of 4.9 percent on the same period last year, and although it's not quite back to pre-COVID-19 levels it's a step in the right direction for business owners.

"I've noticed improvements in the Auckland CBD in terms of business confidence and of course more people which give the atmosphere and bring life into town," Gallery Pacific owner Nick Slocombe said.

And that atmosphere was seen loud and clear at this year's Santa Parade.

"We were actually only 10 percent down on 2020 so going back to the early stages of the pandemic," Beck said.

The upgrade here on Queen Street was finished last month and Auckland Council's next focus is on upgrading the midtown area which includes landmarks like the Auckland Town Hall, Civic Theatre and Sky Tower.

"You'll see substantial changes to the midtown area by the second half of next year with trees and wider footpaths and it'll be substantially different from what it is now," Auckland Council head of city centre programmes Jenny Larking said.

Despite investments in the city centre, the cost of living is still biting for some businesses.

"Our regulars have been saying to us 'sorry we haven't seen you for a while, our mortgage rates got hiked'," Perch owner Krishna Botica said.

"We are discretionary, there's no way around that, we always will be for Kiwis. So moving forward we'll make the most of the tourism over summer and see what plays out next year."

Sites that had been sitting empty are now filling up with new retailers.

"We've got actually demand outstripping supply in the lower part of Queen Street now," Beck said.

Perhaps it's not the heady days of the 60s and 70s but we could be heading in that direction.