Thursday, 22 October 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Tourism business CEO cautiously positive as winter visitor numbers exceed expectation

Riding out the rollercoaster that is COVID-19 is an ongoing challenge for one of Mercury Bay’s top tourist attractions. However, with winter visitor numbers up on last year, The Lost Spring CEO, Alanna Kline, says she is feeling cautiously positive but above all grateful.

“The reality is we don’t know what is going to happen going forward, but I did not think at the end of lockdown that this is where we would be, so I’m certainly grateful, it has exceeded all our expectations,” Alanna says.

The Whitianga business reopened on Queen’s Birthday Weekend after the Alert Level 4 lockdown and has seen trade steadily grow since then. “It has been building and building,” Alanna says. “The restrictions in Auckland have meant we have had to run a pretty thin roster over the past couple of weeks, because the numbers haven’t been there, but overall, I think we have received amazing support from our domestic market.”

Alanna says she believes the strength and value of the domestic market may have been underestimated. “We don’t record where our guests have come from, but we would have estimated that maybe around 40 percent of our business was international,” she says. “On reflection, that might have been on the high side. We are now learning a lot more about our domestic market and our location here puts us in a very strong position. If the international border remains shut, I think we could well be in for a bumper summer.”

Despite reduced opening hours, The Lost Spring’s revenue for June and July was up on the same period in 2019 with the weeks since only slightly below when compared to last year. “It has been very positive and also very surprising,” Alanna says.

The strong numbers have enabled the hiring of some new staff and Alanna is hopeful of building back up to full capacity by Labour Weekend. “We’re not looking too far ahead because there is no way to predict what might happen,” she says. “We have to just keep watching and planning as best we can, but that’s what we are aiming for.” Currently the entire venue is open Friday to Sunday, with the spa and restaurant also open on Thursdays.

Alanna says, despite all the uncertainly caused by the coronavirus, people visiting The Lost Spring typically were remaining upbeat. “I think overall people are pretty optimistic,” she says. “They are keen to just get on and live their lives as much as they can. That’s the feeling I get when I go around Whitianga as well. Even on Friday last week there was a real buzz, I couldn’t get a park on the main street, it was busy with lots of people around.”

Looking towards summer, Alanna believes Destination Coromandel’s “Where Kiwis holiday” campaign will be right on the money in terms of targeting those crucial urban centres of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, which already account for up to 70 percent of the Coromandel’s visitors. “I think it is spot on,” she says. “That’s exactly what we are, we are New Zealand’s playground and that puts us in a very strong position. I think we could see an incredible number of people spending their holiday here.”

Pictured: Alanna Kline, CEO of The Lost Spring in Whitianga.

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