AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Foreign tourists wary of more eruptions on Mt Tongariro have begun to cancel their bookings.
As the majority of popular walking tracks in Tongariro National Park begin to reopen from today, some overseas visitors have already decided they don’t want to holiday near an active volcano.
Adventure Lodge manager Lorraine Sivell, of National Park Village, said she had received three cancellations yesterday from overseas guests expected to book in this week. They were from the United States, Britain and Singapore.
The 21-kilometre Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Northern Circuit will remain closed for the foreseeable future, but all the huts and the rest of the tracks in the national park will be open by Monday.
About 80,000 people walk the alpine crossing each year, mostly from October to April, and any disruption could cause huge loss for the local tourism industry.
National Park Village, 15 kilometres west of the eruption zone, was unaffected by the ash cloud, but Ms Sivell said she had received emails from former guests asking if she had survived the eruption.
“It’s ridiculous, there is no perspective of where the eruption occurred and the whole thing has become dramatised.
“It’s an isolated incident on the other side of the park, it was nowhere near the village. This is a very small eruption compared to Mt Ruapehu in 1995 and 1996.”
The biggest problem facing the tourist industry would be if there was a rash of cancellations for next summer.
“People should resist changing their plans to walk the tracks in the coming months,” she said.
“I’m looking at the positive aspects – we live on an active volcanic area and there will be some marvellous opportunities for visitors to see where the eruption occurred when the track is opened.”
Tongariro Alpine Crossing guiding operator Stewart Barclay, of Adrift Outdoors, was equally upbeat.
“Firstly we want to dispel any image that the area is closed to tourists, which it is not, and secondly, after necessary risk assessment is completed, we want to convey that the eruption has opened up more opportunities for people walking the track.
“If others are like me and itching to go up there to have a look, I don’t think there will be a lot of disruption to the operators.”
Mt Ruapehu skifields Turoa and Whakapapa were unaffected by the eruption and remain open this week.
Chateau Tongariro manager Tony Abbott said the hotel had not received any cancellations.