By Benjamin Wilson
Waipā is a shining star, Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief Jason Dawson says.
He says its attractiveness to domestic tourism has enabled the region to prosper during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The region saw seen annual growth of an estimated 14 per cent in visitor spending to the year ending in June – well up on pre-Covid rises.
New Zealand’s international visitor arrivals plunged by 84 percent between June 2019 to June 2021.
Jason Dawson said Waipā range of attractions have domestic appeal.
It has not been the same for Waitomo and Matamata, which rely heavily on international tourist dollars spent at the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton and not repeat visits from domestic tourists.
Dawson said the impact on the Waitomo community was particularly significant – and issued a plea to Waikato residents to support the industry there.
He said where previous visitors might recall the glow worm caves as a memorable experience offer, today there were 20 worth seeing.
Conversely, Waipā is the home to many internationally recognisable sport and event venues which also benefit from domestic spending. They include the Velodrome at Cambridge, Lake Karāpiro and the Mystery Creek Event Centre.
Dawson cited Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari as one of the region’s top natural tourist destinations.
“Connecting with nature is a key part of our recovery in a post-Covid world and visiting Maungatautari helps restore your wellbeing. Plus, you get to see some unique native wildlife as well.”
The region is often promoted as a hub destination for people who are travelling in the North Island.
“People are more prepared to travel within their own island,” Dawson said.
The future looks equally bright for the district.
Hamilton airport, which is in Waipā, is undergoing a multi-million-dollar upgrade and $12.4 million has been budgeted for the construction of the Te Arawai Museum in Te Awamutu.