This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

The next long-distance walking season will be decisive for many tourist operators based in Fiordland.

The area was affected by widespread flooding in February of last year before the Covid-19 pandemic crippled the tourism sector.

Three of the country’s 10 major hikes are in the region, and the first reservations for huts managed by the Department of Conservation on the trails opened on Tuesday morning.

The Milford Track sold out in record time.

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The Milford Track sold out in record time.

READ MORE:
* Explore the wonders of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s great walks
* Long walks: Milford Track slots for the upcoming season sell out in “record time”

It only took 15 minutes for the accommodation on the Milford track to fill up for the entire six-month season.

Department of Heritage Conservation and Visitors Director Steve Taylor said he had never seen anything like it.

“Really, we’ve seen unprecedented demand on the Great Walks, especially for the Milford track which in previous years at this point we would have seen about 95% of the track exhausted. This year in 15 minutes , it was completely sold out. “

The Heaphy and Rākiura also went on sale Tuesday along with the other seven New Zealand Grand Marches to be offered on Wednesday and Thursday.

Taylor said, based on the evidence, those who were enthusiastic should get in quickly.

“There were around 6,700 people who made reservations online in that first 30 minutes, so the demand is incredible. These are exceptional experiences, great scenery, waterfalls and a breathtaking rainforest, and these are the trips of a lifetime. So it’s inevitable that some people will miss it, but that’s how we manage the quality of the experience and minimize the impact of people in these areas. “

It was music to the ears of tourist operators in the region.

Fiordland Historic Cruises director Adam Butcher has said that the next long-distance cruising season will be big for many.

“We’re now at a point where it’s just a numbers game. At some point, if the numbers don’t change in our favor, operators won’t be able to continue as they planned. to come is therefore critical – more than perhaps it makes itself known.

Butcher said he took a job as a trader because while the clients stopped, the invoices didn’t.

Fiordland Jet co-owner Chris Adams said the boost was desperately needed because things couldn’t get worse than they are now.

“[It’s] much worse than last year. Last year was actually not that bad because once people got out of lockdown, Kiwis have started to travel,” he said.

“This year they’ve traveled a lot in the summer and they’re obviously waiting to see what happens in Australia so they can travel there. Or they’ve spent their money and they’re sitting at home for the winter or waiting for the season to go. ski.”

The Routeburn track goes on sale Wednesday.

Provided

The Routeburn track goes on sale Wednesday.

The understaffing made their pain worse, Adams said.

He was concerned that when visitors finally showed up, smaller operators might not be able to capitalize.

“We need more workers. As for the Minister of Tourism saying ‘we don’t want backpackers in’ is the dumbest thing he ever said. The first 300 planes must be full of backpackers who want vacations and work because we desperately need them. “

The government and the Conservation Department also needed to do more to support operators during the quiet season, he said. Using the area’s Great Walks as cycle paths during these times would be a good start.

For those who missed out on the Department of Conservation accommodation on the Milford Trail, there were still options.

Ultimate Hikes general manager Noel Saxon said they have places available for their tours.

“At this point, we’ve limited ourselves to a shortened season and just five days a week. But we have the option of reopening it if this trans-Tasman bubble is successful and that looks very positive at the moment,” said Saxon.

“We still have a lot of available space on the Milford and Routeburn, but those spaces are selling and selling out pretty quickly as well.”

Proximity Hump ​​Ridge Track was to become New Zealand’s 11th big walk in the next two years.

This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.



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