Fierce competition for the visitor dollar saw Tauranga top New Zealand in offering cut-price accommodation deals this winter, according to the world's leading hotel price comparison website.
Kristen McKenzie of hotelscombined.com said the average nightly hotel rates in Tauranga for June, July and August was the country's largest decrease compared with winter 2011.
"The cost of an average winter hotel stay dropped 21 per cent from $123.73 in 2011 to $105.17 in 2012."
The price cuts coincided with Air New Zealand announcing that it was cutting airfares on many regional routes, including Tauranga, to stimulate tourism. The package of reductions closely followed the airline's 'Think Regional' forum to identify pragmatic and achievable tourism growth strategies.
Latest Statistics New Zealand accommodation figures comparing July 2012 with July 2011 showed the number of guest nights in Tauranga dropped by nearly 13 per cent and the length of stay by nearly 16 per cent. The occupancy rate was down nearly 9 per cent.
Ms McKenzie said half of New Zealand's hotels experienced healthy rate increases this winter compared with last year, while the other half had price drops. Rotorua and Taupo tied for the highest price increase with a 23 per cent spike in the average hotel rate.
Her analysis reflected the room rates of all the major players in the accommodation sector including motels, hotels and managed apartments. It was done by aggregating prices posted from hundreds of major online travel agent and hotel chains
Asked why there was such a contrast between Tauranga and Rotorua, she said their data showed that users of hotelscombined.com searched far more for Rotorua and Taupo accommodation than for Tauranga.
"Secondly, Tauranga appears to be more of a niche seasonal destination that peaks in summer. In winter, the duration of a hotel stay in Tauranga declined considerably."
Tauranga Motel Association president Gail Fagan said some motels had really struggled this winter, with some saying it was the worst June and July for about 10 years.
Despite this, she said the rate for an average motel was still the same as last year.
She said that Tauranga did not have a lot to offer visitors in winter and the city was outside the main tourist trail of Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua and Taupo.
It was hotels and apartments that had brought their prices right back, she said. Apartments had more flexibility around pricing because they did not carry the same costs as motels and hotels. They were not deemed to be commercial by the council and apartments did not have to be serviced every day when guests stayed for longer than one night.
Trinity Wharf manager Gary Dickman said they had not lowered their rates and he was not aware if other city hotels had either. He believed the statistics for all accommodation providers could have been skewed by the increasingly popular use of cut-price hotel booking sites like bookings.com and wotif.
Quest Mount Maunganui Apartments property manager Mark Simon agreed that it could be websites such as wotif that were impacting on the data collected by HotelsCombined. "Everyone uses them. It is easy for clients and accommodation providers. They are huge - everyone links up with them."'
He said that it was quieter in winter and there was more competition, particularly among motels because there were so many of them.