Popular holiday spot back in business

Popular holiday spot back in business

The access road might take a little longer to navigate but Golden Bay tourist operators want visitors to know "paradise is still there".

"To experience the extraordinary, sometimes you have to travel a road less ordinary," said Chris Choat of Tasman District Council.

Vehicle access over State Highway 60 is open, with some restrictions in place, and it's expected to be fully open over Easter.

The top of the south is famous for its beaches, bush and luxury retreats.

"There's Farewell Spit, Kahurangi National Park, a thriving artisan trade in wine, food and drink and all things to feed your spirit," said Mr Choat.

The Bay is back

He wants people to know "the Bay is back" and still offers one of the best experiences any traveller, local or international, can have.

"The weather, beaches and untouched beauty are as spectacular as ever, as are the unique offerings in terms of accommodation, art and experience."

But large slips have had to be cleared and sections of the Takaka Hill Road rebuilt, in the wake of Cyclone Gita, which struck in February.  It’s the only access road to the Bay.

"The road in is part of the Bay's charm," he said.

Popular holiday spot back in business

High season runs from Christmas to Easter.

Steve Wakeman, owner of boutique hotel Ratanui Lodge in Pohara, said visitors who pre-booked are still coming but he's had quite a few cancellations and fewer new bookings than usual at this time of year.

"The road closure means businesses have lost six weeks of that, and that’s significant.  Cafes, retailers and campgrounds are suffering," said Mr Wakeman.

"The Bay itself is in great shape, there's little damage from Cyclone Gita.  It just affected the access road, but NZTA is doing an amazing job."

Tourism is a major contributor to the local economy, worth an estimated 20% of GDP.

Normally, the February to April quarter represents one third of the full year earnings for local businesses - that's $24m worth of visitor spend, out of an annual $77m.

But tourists have been deterred since Cyclone Gita, with some operators saying business is down 70% on the same time last year.

Tourists desperately needed

"The absence of tourists is hurting businesses which usually make much of their income at this time of year, and that tides them over the winter," said Mr Choat.

In a recent survey, 44% of businesses said they've reduced staff hours or laid off employees already, and all have indicated they will need to in the near future.

84% rely on customers driving over Takaka Hill into the Bay.

Tasman District Council said two kilometres of the Takaka Hill Road is still undergoing major repairs but it’s passable, via a single lane, between the hours of 6-8am and 5-7pm each day and all day on Sundays.

"Whether you are a Kiwi or an international traveller, missing Golden Bay on a tour of New Zealand, is like travelling around the U.S. and not visiting the Grand Canyon", Mr Choat said.

This article was created for Tasman District Council.