Tourism is booming in Oamaru, with a 10.3 per cent increase in bed nights, and plans are in place to cater for more tourists this year.

Tourism Waitaki Limited (TWL) general manager Jason Gaskill said visitor numbers were up significantly for the year and inquiries continued to rise. There were 391,000 visitors to the region in 2015 and the average number of nights stayed was 1.53.

“The organisation is now strategically focused on attracting more visitors, who will spend more time in the district and do more things while they are here,” Gaskill said.

TWL had a budget deficit for 2015 of $104,489, although it was expecting a loss of $120,436. For the next financial year a budget deficit of $23,030 was expected, due to an investment in staff and training to cover operational growth, particularly at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony (OBPC) and iSite, he said.

“We’re really pleased with the way things are tracking, it’s very positive.”

Financial gains at the OBPC had been higher than expected by about $75,000. The colony raised $586,148 for the year ending in December, due to higher charge rates and the impact of secured conferences. Further gains were expected.

The OBPC redevelopment would begin later in the year, once contractors had been finalised, and was due to be completed by spring 2016.

About 10,000 people had used all or part of the Alps2Ocean cycle trail, Gaskill said.

Construction of the cycle trail either side of Enfield was now 50 per cent completed and once finished would take cyclists through Enfield via the Waiareka Creek and old railway lines.

Track enhancements being funded by the Ministry of Business and Employment were underway, including safety barriers and surface upgrades. Negotiations were continuing for another 17.3km of the trail between Sailors Cutting and Benmore, along with a route being investigated between Aviemore Dam and Kurow.