Glacier Explorers is set to stay open until at least Queens Birthday weekend in early June and maybe longer as the autumn season is dominated by stable weather and favourable market conditions.
Business at New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier Lake is going strong in a new and exciting way, with emerging markets and Mother Nature gracing Glacier Explorers with a bumper extended season.
General Manager Tourism for Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village Ltd, Denis Callesen, says this season has revealed not only an increase in operational days, but strength and potential in the Pacific Rim and Indian markets.
“The local Christchurch market has understandably slowed considerably, there are not so many Australians and I think the English have been sitting about enjoying tea with scones and clotted cream in anticipation of the Royal Wedding, but the Pacific Rim and Indian markets are going from strength to strength.”
The increasing number of Indians is interesting as during a sales trip to India early last decade Callesen was warned that Indian tourists would walk 200m then start looking for the nearest restaurant.
“That may have been the case then, but it’s changed significantly - now they are excited about the outdoors and want to be involved”, he said.
Indians, Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Taiwanese represent some of the strong new markets over the summer season, with proof that perseverance pays off. “We have had significant numbers of Japanese people for the first time ever”, said Callesen.
“It has taken four or five years for them to gain trust, and while their numbers have fallen since the disasters in their country, we expect they will return strongly as they rebuild. The Japanese visitors are enjoying both Glacier Explorers and Big Sky Stargazing here at Mt Cook.”
Callesen said he is excited at the impact of new flights routes between Asia and New Zealand.
“We have been pleasantly surprised at the arrival of the Malaysian market since the inaugural Air Asia-X flight into Christchurch a few weeks ago and have noticed that hits to our website from Malaysia are up almost 350% from last year – albeit off a very small base,” he said.
Figures for the Glacier Explorers season are ‘a nose ahead’ of the previous year but Callesen is delighted with that result considering a record number of closed days as rainfall reached an all time high of more than two metres between mid December and mid February.
“Nature has a way of balancing and the excellent April weather ensured we had not one closed day due to weather,” he said. As a result April business is up 20% on April last year.
Callesen says that Glacier Explorers expects to be operating into early June, or beyond.
“We are traditionally closed by the first week of May, but if the lake remains unfrozen and we have people, we’ll keep going,” he said.
“Once the lake does freeze and we do close, we anticipate reopening subject to lake and road conditions on August 15 - two weeks earlier than last year and six weeks earlier than the traditional season.”
An early reopening combined with late closure represents more than 50 extra days operationally, which not only spells success for the company but greater enjoyment and discovery for new Indian and Pacific Rim visitors.