Wining, dining and tramping behind rise in Wairarapa hospitality revenues

Nicola and Adam Newell of Union Square Bistro in Martinborough said Wairarapa did well out of domestic tourism during the pandemic.

Loren Dougan

Nicola and Adam Newell of Union Square Bistro in Martinborough said Wairarapa did well out of domestic tourism during the pandemic.

The ability to tramp up to the Tararua Range one day and have a meal and a lovely glass of wine the next are being put forward as reasons for the remarkable rebound for the Wairarapa’s restaurants and bars.

Payment service provider Worldline tracks consumer spending at hospitality merchants, and its latest transaction data from April 2022 showed Wairarapa was up 31% on the same month in 2019.

Nicola Newell of Union Square restaurant in Martinborough said they have had a good two years relative to other parts of the country and loosening restrictions have given them another boost.

“We’re starting to see Australian travelers coming through, probably even more than pre-pandemic. As soon as the borders opened up they seemed to start flooding in. “

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Another change they’ve noticed in the past month was a lightening in the public mood with people more upbeat and wanting to go out.

“People are just less worried now. There was a real apprehension about catching Covid until it was really widespread, and now I think people are a bit more relaxed about it, ”Newell said.

Destination Wairarapa general manager Anna Nielson said bookings across the region have been consistently high.

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Destination Wairarapa general manager Anna Nielson said bookings across the region have been consistently high.

Destination Wairarapa general manager Anna Nielson said the region experienced a “phenomenal” amount of activity in April.

“We’ve found that we’re an appealing destination in this Covid world with our big skies and our ability to tramp up to the Tararuas one day and have a glorious meal and a lovely glass of wine the next day.”

Nielsonsaid the region was impacted by the Omicron outbreak in February and March, but a move to the orange setting of the Covid-19 Protection Framework in mid-April gave hospitality a big boost.

She said accommodation bookings across Wairarapa were running very high and some weekends the demand was more than double capacity.

Worldline’s figures showed spending at hospitality merchants in Wairarapa during April was 31% higher at $ 8 million, compared with the region with the next biggest gains, Taranaki which experienced a 27% increase on its April 2019 levels.

ROBERT KITCHIN / STUFF

From 11.59pm Wednesday, all of NZ will move to the orange traffic light setting. Limits on gatherings will be removed entirely, including at events, concerts and at hospitality venues.

Community-owned hospitality provider Trust House operated venues in Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay, Porirua and Pahiatua.

Chief executive Charles Kaka said the loosening of mask mandates seems to have helped trade in their restaurants and bars.

“The removal of masks for customers has seen us pick up, particularly in April.”

Kaka said they were tracking better than their budget but were still down on last April’s revenues.

He said they’ve also noticed a rise in gaming revenues, which was good news for the community grants pool.

Areas that relied heavily on international travel were still down on pre-pandemic levels.

All Cards NZ underlying spending change since 2019 through Worldline for hospitality merchants.

supplied / Stuff

All Cards NZ underlying spending change since 2019 through Worldline for hospitality merchants.

Hospitality spending in the South Island ($ 229m) was still down 10% on April 2019, although this was a marked improvement on the 32% below 2019 levels seen during March 2022.

Martinborough Hotel owner Tim Smith said the region was fortunate because it had never relied on international travelers and was in a good position to take advantage of Kiwi visitors.

“In the South Wairarapa we’ve been really well supported by domestic tourism. Coming out of the last red setting has helped, but we’ve been lucky to have a pretty good run right through compared to other parts of the country. “

Smith also cited the importance of the Wellington market to Wairarapa hospitality and how that has continued to strengthen.

Wairarapa’s April core retail spend, less hospitality, was up 5.4% up on last year, which was in contrast to a 2.2% drop in neighboring Wellington over the same period, according to Worldline data.

Wellington’s April core retail figures were still up on pre-pandemic levels notching up an increase of 12.4% compared to April 2019.

Hawke’s Bay had also shown strong growth in the three-year comparison, up more than 20% from April 2019 to April 2022.

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