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‘Incredible optimists’ – Kiwis break Great Walks booking records

Trampers on the Paparoa Track, which has had 1062 bookings. Jase Blair/Katabatic Creative Ltd

A record-breaking opening week of Great Walk bookings for the 2020/21 season has smashed expectations. 

Even though the Milford and Routeburn track bookings are yet to open, 6267 Great Walk bookings have been made, generating $1.86 million for DOC – a revenue increase of 14 per cent, despite cutting differential pricing for international bookings. 

“We couldn’t have hoped for better results,” DOC heritage and visitors director Steve Taylor said.

“Contrary to expectations – despite border restrictions and the devastating impacts on COVID-19 on so many New Zealanders – opening week bookings are significantly up on previous years.”

DOC reported an overall booking increase of 36 per cent, including a 47 per cent increase for the Paparoa Track, and 48 per cent for the Heaphy Track. 

The Abel Tasman Coast Track proved the most popular track with 1418 bookings, followed by the Kepler Track at 1294 and Paparoa Track at 1062. 

Geoff Gabites of Paparoa Shuttles is pleased to see the bookings coming through for the Paparoa Track, despite its history of setbacks.

“The bookings we’ve got are starting to become quite substantial, and it’s really interesting  to see the confidence that’s there,” he said. “The people are interested in riding and walking, and I think we’re all incredible optimists.”

Christmas, New Year and Easter have seen exceptional booking numbers. 

“That’s up 36 per cent on last year and 92 per cent of bookings have been made by New Zealanders which is up from 69 per cent last year,” Taylor said.

“While these figures will change over the coming year, it’s incredibly heart-warming to see the sense of community and social responsibility that saw us save lives and shut down the global pandemic in Aotearoa, now being channelled into supporting the country’s recovery.”

Hut space on the walks are already three-quarters full, but Taylor says there are still opportunities for campers and those with flexible dates. 

Bookings for the Milford and Routeburn tracks are projected to open in July/August, once flood repairs have progressed.

Track June 2018 June 2019 June 2020 % change on last year
Heaphy Track 326 476 954 47%
Paparoa Track 0 564 1062 47%
Kepler Track 945 1000 1294 23%
Abel Tasman Coast Track 829 954 1418 38%
Tongariro Northern Circuit 306 336 373 10%
Rakiura Track 168 385 596 35%
Whanganui Journey 75 137 151 9%
Lake Waikaremoana N/A N/A 419 N/A

Information on the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk is incomplete because this track is managed by Tūhoe and figures were not immediately available.