But there’s one place on the planet that is full of tourists: the Chatham Islands.
Haven’t you heard of them? It’s okay; You are not the only one.
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In a typical year, Chathams – two of the most heavily populated islands, Chatham Island and Pitt Island – welcomes about 2,000 tourists. That compares with about 700 full-time residents, most of whom live on Chatham Island, the archipelago’s largest island.
But 2020 is not a typical year.
Chathams’ remoteness often makes it a part of the country New Zealanders never visit. Now, that remoteness is a plus, with the touristy Kiwis turning to the islands as a way to feel like they’re on a long vacation without having to quarantine or take the Covid test. .
Jackie Gurden, the island’s tourism manager, explains about the surge in tourism in Chathams. “It’s a bit more expensive here so you don’t get young people looking for a cheap vacation, and there are no beach resorts or anything.”
But once the pandemic shut down international borders, Tourism New Zealand – the country’s official national tourism commission – had to shift away from marketing their country to foreign tourists to promoting tourism. domestic calendar. That suddenly made the often sleepy Chathams a hot commodity.
However, the demand is outstripping supply. Gurden estimates that there are 150 beds on the islands with a combination of hotels, motels, guesthouses and self-listed locals on sites like Airbnb. Most properties are privately owned and camping is prohibited.
The only airline serving the archipelago is Air Chathams, which operates only a handful of flights a week between Chatham Island and what locals call “mainland”. (Note: most Kiwis only mean South Island when they say “land”, but for Chathantic both the North and South Islands fall into this category.)
Geologists and archaeologists visit Chathams to study its unusual rock formations.
Normally, the tourist season lasts from around November to March, which means summer in the southern hemisphere. But for now, all accommodation on the island is pre-booked until the end of June 2021. Even Gurden, who lives on New Zealand’s North Island, is unlikely to find a place to fall when next visit.
What to do there
Previously, most visitors to Chathams were older travelers looking for a quiet place to stay away from it all. Prices can be high, as many food and fuel have to be shipped from mainland New Zealand.
But once you can get there, the stunning scenery is well worth the trip.
Pitt Island is said to be the first person in the world to see the sunrise every day. Chathams is the easternmost piece of land on the Gondwanaland supercontinent, meaning it has a variety of fascinating terrains, including basalt columns of the Giant Path and volcanic cones.
The islands are also home to some of the world’s rarest birds, as well as a flock of large – and adorable seals.
Little Blue Penguins, the world’s smallest penguins, can be found here.
Where do we go from here?
Before being the island’s tourism director, Gurden was asked to work on a consulting project for the future of the hospitality industry there – although no one could have predicted some of those initiatives would be. Test how long. Luckily, a number of projects, including the island’s tourism website and official brochures, reach visitors who will arrive at the right time.
In some ways, the development of tourism is a big plus for the archipelago, where most people work in the agriculture or fishing industries and the absence of a high school will bring students to Christchurch in. teenage years.
The islands also receive a grant from the New Zealand government to help with infrastructure projects, such as public sanitary equipment and airport updates. Even in the absence of a pandemic, 2020 has been shaped as the time for Chathams to shine.
It’s not about driving growth, it’s about managing growth, Gurden explains. “Tourism growth is needed to create jobs for the young people. The young people on the island can really have a future on the island.”
That said, she warns that travelers will respect the delicate ecosystem and a small-town feel that has made Chathams special from the start.
“There is a resistance on the island for tourists to their space,” she said. “Travel is coming and taking but we guarantee that there is a way to return it.”
That means travel agencies give Chathams $ 25 per tourist, using the money to pay for projects that benefit locals, such as building a swimming pool. .