Kiwis are flocking back to holiday hot spots as wanderlust and the prospect of a summer without Covid restrictions drive a surge in bookings.
Holiday parks and campgrounds at South Island destinations from Te Anau to Nelson are already booked out over Christmas and New Year and many are full right through January.
Campground owners say domestic tourists are driving the demand. International visitors are trickling back in, but not at pre-Covid levels.
This time last year, New Zealand still faces Covid-19 mandate restrictions including masks, vaccine passes and border closures and vaccine passes. Masks were not compulsory at campgrounds, but many operators chose to require them.
Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park manager Neville Tozer said the popular new year period – December 27 to January 4 – was booked out long ago. The surprise had been the volume of November bookings and inquiries from last-minute holidaymakers.
“We are way up on last year. People are enjoying a bit of freedom and winging it.”
“We have the odd night here and there that isn’t fully booked yet. But even now we are 60 to 70% booked up per night and sometimes 100%.
“We can have 5 or 6% [of spots booked] in the morning and by evening we have no vacancies.”
The Camp at Lake Hawea was also booked out from December 24 to mid-January after a fairly consistent winter too.
Manager Karyn Abery said travelers were predominantly from New Zealand, but some were coming from Australia, Singapore, China, Thailand, USA & UK.
“This year we could have filled the park twice. We are constantly getting inquiries and turning people away.”
In Southland, Te Anau has no spaces at campgrounds between December 30 and January 1.
Wānaka Lakeview Holiday Park’s units and powered sites were well booked throughout the New Year period.
“We filled up much earlier in the year than previous years, with more international guests having forward bookings along with having to keep sites free to accommodate staff as they have nowhere to live,” manager Natalie Ward said.
The park always allocated some space for staff to stay, Ward said, but had dedicated more room than usual this year.
“Eighty percent of people applying for jobs need somewhere to live.”
In Canterbury, Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park was well-booked from mid-December through to Waitangi weekend.
Kaiteriteri, near Nelson, had been booked solid for the holidays since May. Full capacity runs from December 23 to the end of January.
On the West Coast, Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park is fully booked from December 1 until late January. Hotels in town have no vacancy signs on them already, which bodes well for them tourist town that struggled through the pandemic.
“Most of our cabins and houses are booked. In the last three weeks there have been no vacancies [signs] in the hotels in town,” manager Maatewa Ratu said.
“It wasn’t like this last year. Now we have these tour groups coming through and it is great.”
Greymouth Top 10 Holiday Park was up in bookings as well and Kaikōura was at its busiest since the Covid pandemic began.
“We are pretty busy … with regulars coming back,” Kaikōura Top 10 receptionist Maggie Jasnos said. “We are pretty much booked.”