Travel insurers are bracing for an increase in claims as a massive landslide caused by heavy rains blocked a section of a West Coast highway that serves as the only access to major Glacier Country tourist destinations from the north.
According to Stuff.co.nz, a section of State Highway 6 north of Whataroa was closed on Friday, forcing many tourists on their way to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers to revise their plans. Ashley Cassin, the head of the Glacier Country promotions agency, told Stuff that his members, ranging from accommodation to guiding operators, were preparing to cope with the abrupt drop in visitors.
The tourism industry in Glacier Country relies heavily on tourists arriving from the north, particularly during the busy summer season, and the effect of changed itineraries is already being felt around other parts of the South Island.
“It would be far better for us if it had occurred in June or July when there’s fewer customers, but we choose to live in a rainforest that gets five metres of rain a year and some things are just out of your control,” Cassin told Stuff.
Scenic Hotels chief executive Brendan Taylor told Stuff that their five hotels at Franz Josef, Fox, and Haast were emptying fast as people caught by the slip headed south.
“Unfortunately, it was going to be the busiest weekend we’ve had this year, we were full up and you would probably find in Franz and Fox there would not have been many rooms available, so that’s a bit sad,” he said.
“All group tour business has gone because they will not be able to reschedule.”