Having just arrived back in the office after a number of tours over the Christmas/New Year period, I thought it might be useful to give a general update to the travel community.
Firstly - the doom and gloom of the financial crisis has largely passed us by. New Zealanders have borrowed less than many others and are consequently hurting less. We've had a number of finance companies fall over, of course, but our beaches, lodges, rainforest, and Christmas spending are all in very good health. Unfortunately, Kourawhero Lodge has ceased trading, and we expect some others who are highly leveraged to follow. Nevertheless, summer is alive and well and there are quite a number of tourists in-country.
However, the global malaise has resulted in a drop in revenue to about 50% of last year for most luxury operators. I'm not sure where newspapers get their numbers from, but mine are from talking widely with people involved in New Zealand luxury tourism. There have been a large number of cancellations but also a large number of last minute bookings. As a safe destination, we have benefited from trouble in India and Thailand (we had two parties come to us with a few days notice who were previously booked to these destinations). So, once the season is over, I am predicting that we will trade on average at about 60%-70% of last year.
Huka Lodge is doing really well with the refreshing new management of Michael and Luciana Nijdam. They seem finally to be blending European service levels with New Zealand confidence and ease. So we are recommending Huka again after a few years on our "don't go" list.
The wonderfully personal lodges, often owner-operated, which we love so much are still performing very well indeed. Greenhill, Claremont and Silver Pine have all attracted very positive comments from our clients and guides - "wonderful, relaxing, beautiful, sophisticated, like being at home". Our clients seem to prefer the total relaxation at these places to the busy-ness of the "super lodges".
Kai Waho scored a couple of home runs with their Maori food experience. Hone Mihaka is actively guiding Native American Indian clients around the country with his inimitable Maori flair and passion. Brigid Ormond continues her sure and gentle touch in Hawkes Bay. Wilkin River Jet continue to delight with their incredibly priced heli-hike-jetboat experiences.
So, all in all, it's pretty good really - bearing in mind the global situation. The major travel companies will hurt next year rather than this as they have long lead times. Us nimble top-enders are hurting a little now but working hard to keep revenue levels as high as possible this year. We expect next year to be much better, but are really enjoying our summer over here right now. Thanks to everyone who has supported us, and let's roll on with as good a 2009 as possible!