The number of New Zealanders keen to experience one of the country's Great Walks has increased dramatically, according to information released by the Department of Conservation (DOC) on Wednesday.
Despite travel bans and global pandemic, there's been a 36 percent year-on-year increase in overall bookings.
DOC Heritage and Visitors Director Steve Taylor said the department couldn't have hoped for better results.
"Contrary to expectations - despite border restrictions and the devastating impacts on COVID-19 on so many New Zealanders - opening week bookings are significantly up on previous years," he said.
Bookings increased 47 percent on the newest Great Walk - the Paparoa Track - and 48 percent on the Heaphy Track.
Kiwis are being encouraged to support domestic tourism through Tourism New Zealand's 'Do something new, New Zealand' campaign, which has included widespread prime time TV advertising.
And it appears that message is getting through. With no sign of international travel resuming anytime soon, Kiwis are clearly looking at their own backyard for their next adventure.
"With 92 percent of these bookings made by Kiwis, it demonstrates a huge domestic appetite to explore our home and connect with our natural and cultural heritage," Taylor said.
Back on track:
- So far, 6267 bookings have been made for the 2020-2021 season
- That's an increase of 36 percent on last year
- New Zealanders make up 92 percent of bookings, which is up from 69 percent last year
- DOC manages around 1000 huts, 14,000km of walking tracks and 13,000 historic and cultural sites
"While these figures will change over the coming year, it's incredibly heart-warming to see the sense of community and social responsibility that saw us save lives and shut down the global pandemic in Aotearoa, now being channelled into supporting the country's recovery," Taylor said.
"This time spent in nature is an investment in both our own health and wellbeing and our recovery as a country."
While hut spaces on the walks are already at 75 percent capacity, Steve Taylor says there are still opportunities for those happy to camp or with flexible dates.
Where are Aotearoa's great walks?
- Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
- Tongariro Northern Circuit
- Whanganui Journey
- Abel Tasman Coast Track
- Heaphy Track
- Routeburn Track
- Milford Track
- Paparoa Track
- Kepler Track
- Rakiura Track
Further Great Walk opportunities will be available when repairs on the famous Milford and Routeburn tracks are completed. Bookings for these walks are expected to open in July or August.
Taylor said while exploring the outdoors is exciting, travellers should remember that safety must come first and staying in a DOC hut is very different to staying in a hotel.
"If you are heading out into nature over winter, or at any point, remember to stay safe by planning beforehand, letting someone know your plans, checking the weather and track conditions, knowing your limits and taking the food, clothing and equipment you will need. Encourage your friends and whānau to do the same."
Bookings for all other DOC accommodation excluding those on the Great Walks opens next Thursday.