Kiwi businesses take it easy over January

  • Opinion
  • February 1, 2017
  • Paul Keane
Kiwi businesses take it easy over January

The summer season in New Zealand can often be a hiatus period for business. I have always had the view that business activity tends to wind down gradually from Labour Weekend in October through to Christmas, and that post-Christmas it takes all of January, and potentially even up to the end of February, to get business back at full commitment levels. Public holidays for Waitangi Day and Auckland Anniversary can exacerbate this.

Certainly that’s the usual state of affairs. Anecdotally, we wonder if people have been back at work sooner than usual this year. 

The economy is running at a good pace, and the construction and property industries are arguably busier than they’ve ever been. With so much work on, and many major construction projects struggling to maintain their schedules, we suspect many will have had to cut their holidays short!

And yet, those holidays are important – a time to recharge the batteries and reflect on a busy 2016. By any measure, there was a very high level of activity in the year. Especially for people at the coalface of construction, that often meant long work weeks and overtime. That in turn can create health and safety issues.

Hopefully those who worked long and hard during the last year are able to get some downtime, whether over the Christmas/New Year period or later in 2017.

Have we reached “peak holiday”?

Regardless of whether we take a longer break or not, most of us would finish work for the year shortly before Christmas, and stay on holiday at least until a little after New Year, with public holiday days filling in most of the gaps. This is really the “peak of the peak” of the holiday season. Schools stay on holiday through the end of January, so for many working parents the holiday can extend as well.

The flip side of all this is a busy tourism sector, with January (and December and February) the peak month for most holiday destinations across NZ. All the indications are that the 2016-2017 holiday season was a record breaker – not just for domestic tourism, but for international tourism as well.

The food and beverage payoff

Despite the unseemly and unusual holiday weather, tourism-focused businesses like hotels and food and beverage outlets have all benefitted from the holiday break. Holiday makers have a passion for enjoying a meal with a good glass of their favourite wine, so all those restaurants in the main centres and holiday areas continue to enjoy a high level of patronage.

I meanwhile have been in South America and the same applies here. The only difference is the level of activity on offer, which includes street dancing – tango and the like. New Zealand has a way to go before it really captures the holiday atmosphere like that on offer on other countries.

Spreading out the holiday season?

The idea of changing our summer holiday season – shifting holidays into the warmer weather of February – has some merit, and seems to be currently gaining momentum. No doubt many Kiwis have been thinking about it while trying to swim in waters which, if they’re declared safe to swim in, are nonetheless much cooler than they should be!

Certainly, tourism areas would benefit from a variable holiday season rather than catching all holiday makers at the one time. This could mean keeping rooms (or campsites) full for two or three months, rather than a sharp spike in demand. We New Zealanders certainly love our summer breaks and don’t need much of an excuse to try and extend them. I can't see much changing anytime soon!

This story originally appeared on RCG's blog.

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