Chatham Islands' Maunganui Stone Cottage Chatham Islands' Maunganui Stone Cottage

‘Technically overseas’

A ‘technically overseas destination’ that is reached without leaving New Zealand is gaining popularity amongst consumers and consequently providing opportunities for the travel trade.

Tourism Chatham Islands manager, Jackie Gurden, says one of the key drivers for growth right now is the inability of Kiwis to head offshore for their holidays. ‘One operator has completely filled tours with people who have cancelled their overseas trip, and they weren’t necessarily existing clients.’

Another key driver has been the establishment of Tourism Chatham Islands, which itself coincided with the development and extension of tourism businesses.

‘We have also had Tourism New Zealand promoting domestic travel and we’ve piggy backed off that, while a number tour operators have had their international arm cut off.’

Gurden points out that traditionally only 2000 people visit the Chathams each year and while there is a desire to increase that number it is being done in a sustainable way – including emphasis on shoulder and winter seasons.

Visitor numbers tend to be limited by capacity as well, though the islands are easy to reach from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on Air Chathams flights. The destination retains a community focus and visitors are asked to make voluntary donations towards a choice of island projects.

Assisting the sale and promotion of the islands is a just released brochure and a new website.

Gurden says all of the accommodation on the island is locally owned and operated, including Hotel Chatham on Waitangi Beach. Among other choices are retreat, b&b cottage and homestay, and motel accommodation.

Ranking as the most visited site on Chatham Island is the Basalt Columns, with the Maunganui Stone Cottage close behind. Other ‘must see and dos’ include Tauki Camp and Gap Sanctuary, Port Munning Seal Colony, and a trip out to Pitt Island.

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