© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2024

West Coast sees summer tourism boom

Jazlyn Whales
Lake Kaniere, West Coast of the South Island   Cameron Ross NZBS

The tourism industry took a huge hit during the Covid 19 pandemic when international borders closed and New Zealand went into not one, but two nationwide lockdowns.

However, the fog has seemed to have lifted for the West Coast of the South Island, which saw a climb in tourist numbers over this past summer period.

But despite the tourism boom, some businesses still feel as though they have some catching up to do.

Patrick Volk, who owns and operates the Punakaiki Cafe, feels that comparing tourist destinations to other towns in the West Coast is unrealistic. This is because although towns such as Greymouth are up in visitor numbers, Volk says his cafe is still down roughly eight percent in revenue since 2019 trading numbers.

Volk also feels that tourism statistics need to be compared to 2019 – not 2020-2022 – as the world was still mid-pandemic. He also says that despite being fortunate enough to be owner operated, many people who lived and worked in Punakaiki were forced to leave the area – adding another pressure on the small tourist town. 

Volk, however, is feeling positive.

“There was definitely an increase in domestic visitors because the border was closed and New Zealanders couldn't get out, so they went places they had never been and never would have gone.” 

hokitika sign 2024
Hokitika Cameron Ross NZBS

Heath Milne, CEO of Development West Coast, is feeling optimistic, saying it was great to see so many people on the West Coast and that it brought a ‘vibe’ that many people hadn’t seen since before Covid.

Milne was also happy about domestic tourism numbers, and says domestic tourism has settled at a much higher level than pre Covid.

Despite the uncertainty that the Covid 19 pandemic brought for places such as the West Coast, it is undoubtedly a positive that slowly but surely we are seeing some of New Zealand's most beautiful tourist destinations come back to life.