West Coast flooded with record tourism boom

The West Coast is experiencing a record tourism boom. It's one of the country's fastest growing tourist areas, and the region is now finding ways to cope with the extra numbers.

Joseph Walker of Hokitika Sandwich Company welcomes the "shot in the arm" of increased business over the summer fuelled by tourists.

"Make hay while the sun shines, as they say."

He says the West Coast is having to rework its economic strategy to cope in a changing world.

"For years we sort of exploited natural resources on the coast and a lot of that is starting to drop off, so tourism is a way that we can promote our resources here and protect them, but still make some money."

Hokitika campgrounds are busier than ever, cashing in on rapidly growing numbers of visitors to the West Coast. 870,000 people visited the region in 2017 - a number forecast to surge to over a million by 2021.

No longer relying on coal and dairy, the challenge facing the small coastal townships is how to cater for the booming tourist industry.

Tourism West Coast CEO Jim Little says the region must be better equipped to handle the hordes of tourists.

"We're going to need some infrastructure developments, particularly in the hotel situation."

The popular Pancake Rock township of Punakaiki struggled with overflowing visitor numbers last year. Tourism West Coast plans to spread the visitors around the coast.

"We've got plenty of opportunity for dispersing people. Particularly we've got a lot of accommodation availability in places like Haast, Greymouth at certain times of the year, and obviously Westport."

A busy summer has made the West Coast more of a hotspot than ever.