Surge in international tourism
Data from MarketView indicates that international spending in the month of August 2023 rose 86% compared to August 2022, totalling $3 million. When compared to August 2019, this marks a 16% rise, and is the first-time international visitor spending has surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
"The recovery is very much well underway," remarked Patrick Dault, Development West Coast Destination and Tourism Manager.
Leading the pack of international tourists were Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Notably, US visitor spending in August surged by 146% compared to pre-pandemic August 2019.
Domestic tourism remained robust, with New Zealanders continuing to explore their backyard, propelling the total visitor expenditure on the West Coast for the year ending August 2023 to $197.2 million, a 46% increase ($61.7 million) from the previous year, and 7% above the pre-pandemic level.
Hotels reopen, reflecting renewed optimism
Signifying optimism in the tourism sector, iconic hotels such as the Heartland Hotel Glacier Country and Lake Mahinapua Hotel, which have been in hibernation since COVID, have opened their doors to greet guests once more.
The Lake Mahinapua Hotel, a symbol of the region's rich heritage since 1905 was originally owned by a Scottish miner who arrived on the West Coast in the late 1800s. The hotel gained nationwide attention after featuring in Mainland cheese commercials in the early 1990s.
More recently, the pub found new ownership under former Kiwi Experience co-owner Michael Warren, who fell in love with the West Coast during his time with Kiwi Experience and sought to preserve one of New Zealand's oldest and most beloved pubs.
"We are thrilled to reopen our doors and extend our hospitality beyond bus trips,” Warren said.
Nature is also weaving its own remarkable comeback story, with two rare species returning to the West Coast for their annual breeding seasons.
The Kōtuku (White Heron), a critically endangered species with just 150-200 remaining, has begun its annual migration to Whataroa, its sole breeding ground in New Zealand. For New Zealanders, particularly the Māori, the Kōtuku is not just another bird; it's an emblem of rarity and good fortune. These birds, featured on the $2 coin, are deeply entrenched in the country’s cultural fabric. Their sighting, considered rare and auspicious, is akin to a blessing. Their association with good fortune is such that in 1953-54, during her visit, Queen Elizabeth II was compared to the Kōtuku by the Māori.
Their near-extinction in the 1930s and 1940s, due to the fashion trend of using White Heron feathers in women’s hats, threatened the species until protection measures were implemented in 1949. Predator control efforts by DOC and the team at White Heron Sanctuary Tours have been pivotal in ensuring the survival of these majestic birds.
Further south, on the shores of Lake Moeraki, the world’s third rarest penguin, the Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguins), have made their annual 2,000-kilometre journey back to the West Coast’s coastal rainforests for the breeding season.
The Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, working with the DOC, West Coast Penguin Trust, and Tawaki Project, has tracked penguin breeding for 33 years. Dr. Gerry McSweeny reports a near tripling in numbers, crediting pest control and local dog regulations.
The West Coast is witnessing a resurgence, with international visitors returning, iconic hotels coming out of hibernation, and the annual return of the Kōtuku and Tawaki penguins, symbolising nature's own rejuvenation.
Tenders Sought for Riverview Development
Grey District Council, aligned with its commitment outlined in the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan, is collaborating with their development partner, Development West Coast, to select a Preferred Main Contractor to commence the design of Riverview development in Greymouth.Learn more
Business survey reveals optimism amidst challenges
A recent pulse survey captured the sentiments of 142 businesses on the West Coast, sharing their insights on the current business climate, growth prospects, and challenges.Learn more
Critically endangered Kōtuku return to West Coast for breeding
As the Southern Hemisphere ushers in the spring season, New Zealand celebrates a natural marvel—the return of the critically endangered Kōtuku, or White Heron, to its sole breeding ground in Whataroa on the West Coast.Learn more
West Coast gearing up for a memorable summer
This spring and summer, the West Coast invites visitors to delve deep into the untamed natural wilderness of Te Tai o Poutini. After a winter bathed in sunshine, the region is unveiling a myriad of fresh new developments to complement its already iconic landscapes. With significant projects coming to fruition, it is the perfect time to explore the West Coast’s wonders.Learn more
Couple who moved to West Coast say they haven't looked back
Nearly two years ago, Eliza Hood and her family left Gisborne for the charming coastal town of Greymouth. They didn't just find a new home, but also a welcoming community and a surprising economic trend that contrasts with the rest of New Zealand.Learn more