22 Jun 2011

South Island tourism taking big hit

3:22 pm on 22 June 2011

An already tough winter looks like getting even tougher for tourism operators in the South Island.

The problems created by the Christchurch earthquakes and aftershocks are being compounded by ash cloud disrupting flights, a lack of snow on the slopes so far this winter, and the high New Zealand dollar.

New Zealand Hotel Council chairperson Penny Clark told Nine to Noon on Wednesday the combination is making what was already likely to be a tough winter even harder for businesses in the South Island.

Ms Clark says while short-term visitor numbers are holding, tourists are not spending as much as the exchange rate bites.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter told Nine to Noon the lack of snow and flight disruptions right now could put off Australian visitors coming here during their school holidays.

However, Mr Hunter says the ongoing earthquake risk is more worrying as it is hitting the Australian market, as well as the high-value Japanese and Korean markets.

ASB economist Jane Turner told the programme many tourists are staying in the North Island and the biggest block to the industry recovering is the aftershocks.

Ms Turner expects more people to continue leaving New Zealand, and that will keep the economy softer for longer.