Stewart Island seeing record numbers of local tourists

Rakiura-Stewart Island is enjoying a bumper tourism season despite international borders remaining closed.

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The extra visitors are presenting some challenges though. Source: 1 NEWS

The island has just had its busiest winter on record but the extra visitors are bringing some challenges.

Closed international borders mean more domestic tourists are filling the gap.

“We've been trying to do this for more many, many years like all tourist destinations, it's hard work to get people to take notice,” says Stewart Island-Rakiura Councillor, Bruce Ford.

But more visitors means more pressure and the island is short of staff.

Helen Cave of South Sea Hotel told 1 NEWS she needs more hands on deck.

“Right now we need four more and then by the end of January when the students come back we need another eight as well probably, maybe more," she says. 

Visitor numbers have been steadily increasing over the past decade, but when Covid hit there were thoughts that may plummet. But Stewart Island is bucking the trend with numbers sky high.

Arrivals over the winter months are up 20 per cent on this time last year, when it's usually the quiet season.

Bobbi Brown, of Southland's regional development agency, Great South, says getting to Steward Island has never been easier.

“I think it's on people's bucket lists and people have always wanted to go to Stewart Island and Southland actually and it's never been easier to get there,” she says.

Air New Zealand's direct service from Auckland to Invercargill is also working wonders.

“You can be wheels up in Auckland at half past ten and in three hours 35 minutes you're on the foreshore in Halfmoon Bay,” says Raymond Hector of Stewart Island flights.