International visitors return to the Bay of Plenty, businesses look forward to summer

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The unexpected long weekend proved busy for many in the Bay of Plenty, with visitors flocking to the beaches to soak up the sunshine.

Business owners say international tourists are returning to the area in numbers that promise a great summer ahead.

Hugo and Carters Backpackers and motel owner Emily Gillett said the long weekend made her feel the struggles of the past two years were worth it.

“It was very busy with national and international visitors. We were fully booked every night and were pleasantly surprised.”

Gillett said she launched Hugo and Carters Backpackers and Motel in 2019 and the past two years seemed to be “riding up a storm”.

“It makes me very happy to be able to say this: I am absolutely optimistic for the summer.

    Hugo and Carters Backpackers and motel owner Emily Gillett (right) with guest Anna Nestrojilova from the Czech Republic.  Photo / Provided
Hugo and Carters Backpackers and motel owner Emily Gillett (right) with guest Anna Nestrojilova from the Czech Republic. Photo / Provided

“Oh my God, we weathered the storm.”

Gillett said the majority of his international guests come to the Bay of Plenty for work.

Minjung Woo from South Korea has been staying at Mount Maunganui for just over a week “just to travel and find a job”.

“We went to the beach every day and I really enjoy the beach and watching people surf,” Woo told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Woo said she would like to learn to surf and her favorite restaurant was Master Kong.

“[My friends and I] spending a lot of quality time there.”

House of Surf co-owner Rowan Clifford said the last three days were the first weekend that felt like a “return to normal”.

“We are really the litmus test, at the beach and there were loads of people around.”

Clifford said he held an intensive two-day surf course over the weekend and many of his students come from Auckland.

“It’s been really cool and an amazing weekend for it,” Clifford told the Bay of Plenty Times.

“There were a lot of people on the beach, barbecuing, speaking a lot of different languages, a lot of European accents.

“It felt like summer was here.”

Rowan Clifford, co-owner of House of Surf.  Photo / Provided
Rowan Clifford, co-owner of House of Surf. Photo / Provided

Rob Veale of Mount Backpackers said business picked up before the long weekend was announced.

“A lot of overseas travelers started arriving and they arrived earlier than usual.

“I think things will work out.”

Veale said the promised return of the cruise ship industry was also a good sign for business.

“What this means is that the hospitality industry is going to be very vibrant and always looking for workers, which means backpackers will come and stay with us.”

Tearriffic owner Chris Senerpida said his bubble tea truck was opened at Lake Rotorua over the weekend.

“It was really busy, lots of people by the lake, lots of families and the gypsy fair was there too.”

Senerpida said there were “definitely” more people from out of town and more tourists in Rotorua over the past three days.

“Slowly the tourists are coming in. I can tell by their accents. Somehow it’s getting back to normal.”

Tony Bullot is the President of Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty's <a class=Accommodation Sector and owner of 850 Cameron Motel in Tauranga. Photo/NZME” class=”article-media__image responsively-lazy” data-test-ui=”article-media__image”/>
Tony Bullot is the President of Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty’s Accommodation Sector and owner of 850 Cameron Motel in Tauranga. Photo/NZME

Tony Bullot – chairman of accommodation sector Hospitality NZ Bay of Plenty and owner of Tauranga’s 850 Cameron Motel – was optimistic about the summer ahead.

“We have a lot more forward bookings for the summer than we’ve had in the past two years,” Bullot said. “It seems people are confident to plan their summer again rather than nervously waiting until the last minute.”

He said many events and festivals were returning after several years of restrictions, which would also help the accommodation industry.

“We look forward to Tauranga filling up with happy participants enjoying all that the Bay of Plenty has to offer.”

Matt Cowley, Managing Director of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.  Photo / Mead Norton
Matt Cowley, Managing Director of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce. Photo / Mead Norton

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said operators and businesses were ready for another long, hot summer, “with ocean temperatures more like the Gold Coast”.

“It will encourage more Kiwis to extend or take a second summer break in February and March,” Cowley said.

“More people, longer is good for spreading peak summer demand into the later summer months.”

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Cowley said there would be something happening in the bay every weekend until Easter and that many entertainment venues and hospitality businesses had opened since last summer.

Tauranga’s proximity to other attractions such as mountain bike trails and the return of the cruise industry would also mean more visitors in the coming months.

“Hopefully good progress is being made on the various road works in our city, so that we are not stuck with traffic cones and lollipop signs throughout the summer.”

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