Big year for tourism in Nelson

  German tourists Julia Schmitt and Kristine Schweinshaut at the Nelson iSite Visitor Centre.

An early Easter has helped Nelson's bumper tourist season continue.

There were concerns the run of poor weather the week before the Easter long-weekend would put people off.

Department of Conservation Motueka operations manager Mark Townsend said the "stunning forecast" meant everything was full.

"In the Abel Tasman we've had a full park through Easter. Some huts are still full now," he said.

"It's been an absolute record season for us. It exceeded all our expectations."

He said he had noticed a growth in the slower autumn shoulder season and an increase in school group visits to previous years.

"It was a great Easter. It's a record season going on for us."

Golden Bay Visitor Centre manager Casey Port said the door count saw 337 people through the door over the weekend in comparison to 125 on Saturday last week.

Port said Easter falling earlier this year had an impact and kept holiday-makers coming through.

"It was definitely a busier time, especially with the weather, the weather was great," Port said.

She said the 15 per cent surcharge at hospitality businesses didn't turn people away.

"The cafes were packed that's for sure. It was pretty good - very good trading."

Overall Port said January and February were the busiest two months of summer.

"We've had a great summer. We feel like it kind of kept trickling in for March."

Two 19-year-old German backpackers at iSite Nelson said they had stayed in Nelson since early February for the good weather and work, but have been in New Zealand since October and plan to stick around until June.

Kristine Schweinshaut said New Zealand seemed like a great place to spend a gap year and be immersed in nature.

Her friend Julia Schmitt spent the Easter long-weekend trekking Abel Tasman.

"The landscape was really beautiful," she said.

Schmitt said she would recommend Nelson to friends at home, but did find brasseries expensive.

Schweinshaut said the highlight for her was Tongariro National Park in the north.

Uniquely Nelson manager Simon Duffy also put the tourist numbers down to an expansion in the shoulder season and a run of good weather.

"The town is very busy. There are lots of tourist people in town, at the shops, markets and Mapua Easter Fair," he said.

Duffy said there was a real "buzz" about town and a lot of campervans around.

"It has been a long summer for Nelson as far as weather goes and the airline prices has helped bring people to Nelson. It's a lot more affordable to come down even just for a weekend away," Duffy said.

"It's very positive. The Paymark results over Christmas and January, as far as dollar spend, is reflective of a great summer and New Year for tourism."

When Duffy met with tourists over the weekend they expressed their delight in the area.

"Nelson has quite an authentic feel about it and that comes from the people of Nelson. It's a nice place to be," he said.

Duffy expected tourist numbers to drop off as winter approaches.

Nelson also swelled on Saturday when 457 competitors, their friends and families from across New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom stopped in town for the New Zealand Orienteering Championships.

Nelson Orienteering Club president Jill Clendon said it was the first one to be held in Nelson for at least 10 years and she expected the event would have had a positive impact on local businesses.

"We had competitors as young as seven and in their 80s," she said.

Stuff Nelson Mail