A busy event schedule in Hawke’s Bay this summer is putting pressure on area accommodation providers, but they are not complaining about major events returning to the area.
The summer calendar was already busy, with international cricket, the SIX60 concert at McLean Park and the new First We Eat festival, as well as the region’s iconic Art Deco festival, Horse of the Year, and music festivals Nest Fest and Outfield. Now two postponed events – the 10 Day Summer FAWC! series and New Zealand Cider Festival – have been added to the lineup.
Hawke’s Bay Tourism Managing Director Hamish Saxton described it as an âevent extravaganzaâ.
âThe extensive lineup is fantastic and spanning the first four months, it just gives one more reason to visit Hawke’s Bay throughout the summer and early fall,â he said.
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The spread of events this summer would contribute to a “constant flow of travelers” to the region, he said.
He was convinced that Hawke’s Bay had the capacity to absorb an influx of visitors, as demonstrated at Mission Estate concerts and other large-scale events, adding that Napier had also hosted a new hotel, Swiss-Belboutique. Napier, who had increased the number of chambers in the city by 52..
Saxton said events made travel urgent, giving retail stores, tour operators and local economies a “clean injection of cash and, in the case of last year, potentially critical.”
But Aaron Mills, president of the Hawke’s Bay branch of the Accommodation Association New Zealand and owner of Havelock North Motor Lodge, said the events around the same time constituted a “coup rather than a period of sustained activity “.
âThe pressure is similar to last year, but it’s not sustained,â Mills said. “This year we are seeing a lot more variances in term bookings and term bookings have been slow to recover.”
Although there were more events last year, this year it proved more difficult to balance group bookings with those of domestic travelers as they all wanted bookings for the same time periods, a he declared.
Last year they had been “flat” with Christmas until events like the Art Deco festival and the Horse of the Year event were disrupted by Covid-19, he said.
Holding three events at the same time was not ideal for a hospitality or accommodation business in the region, agreed Adam Parker, regional director of the Lower North Island for the association.
Mills added that there was already “real pressure” on hotel companies with restrictions related to the traffic light system adding to their work and slowing down service, which would reduce revenues.
“The time it takes to scan a guest and check their vaccine passports is about the same time it takes to serve a drink, so the poor tax collector uses twice as much time for fewer sales,” a- he declared. âA lot of people have struggled to recruit enough staff or keep the employees they have, these businesses are forced to shut down for a day or two because they are unable to manage staff levels. I still think that with the vaccine passport and the orange light restrictions, we will not see the income of the past. “
Katie Silcock, general manager of Scenic Hotel Te Pania in Napier, was optimistic about a busy first quarter for 2022, adding that upcoming bookings looked “consistent” and good.
April was already shaping up to be a busy month, she said. The 106-room hotel was already on hold for Art Deco, with reservations often made three years before the event.
After canceling this year’s event the week before due to increased alert levels of Covid-19, Art Deco festival director Greg Howie was particularly looking forward to 2022. He said ticket sales for next year’s event were ahead of the sales of previous years.
“We understand that there are a large number of people who want to come to the region for this.”
Howie estimated that about 65% of ticket sales so far have been to people outside the region, adding that the event will bring tens of thousands of people to Hawke’s Bay.
Attracting up to 40,000 people each year, he acknowledged that there was likely additional pressure on accommodation.
He added that the Art Deco festival – arguably one of the most important and well-known events in the region – is usually held around this date in mid-February.
âWe put a stake in the ground and the region is working in this setting. There aren’t usually many other events booked the same week as we are, âHowie said. âWhen planning a calendar of events for an area, it pays to spread the load as much as possible, so you can get people to the area week after week rather than cramming them all together on the same weekend. “
Kevin Murphy, the Napier City Council Events Manager, was just thrilled to see the opportunity to host rescheduled events. âIt’s exciting to be able to see them run.
The calendar of events for February and March seemed to have a lot of activity due to these changes, but he was not concerned about the increase in the number of visitors, he said.
âFrom an accommodation perspective, we know from the history of the Hawke’s Bay Marathon that we can manage the number of accommodations with individual events.â
Most people who don’t need group accommodation would find it with friends and family, or at AirBnBs and more traditional accommodation providers, he said.
Of the handful of events held the week before the Art Deco festival, most had only a small number between 25 and 30 percent outside attendees, Murphy said. âThese are not huge numbers. They are all quite manageable.
His main concern remained the lingering uncertainty around Covid-19, adding that nationwide ticket sales were slower and there was still a lot of risk.