Women's Rugby World Cup: Nearly 14,000 tickets sold for games in Whangārei today – Northern Advocate

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The Women's Rugby World Cup games in town have given Gordon and Heather Law of Kensington Motel an added boost. Photo / Tania Whyte
Whangārei has run out of accommodation and the hospitality sector will likely struggle as thousands trickle into town, predominantly for the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Some motel owners have put people on the waiting list
All the high-end hotels like the Distinction on Riverside, Discovery Settlers on Hatea Dr and the Oceans Resort Hotel in Tutukaka have been mostly booked by players and the coaching staff participating in the tournament.
World Rugby had sold 13,800 tickets for today’s matches by lunch hour yesterday – the largest crowd for a sports event at the venue since the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour that attracted a crowd of 20,000.
However, numbers during the Lions’ tour were bumped to 20,000 as additional temporary seating was installed, unlike during today’s games.
A check on accommodation booking websites shows all hotels and motels have been fully booked this weekend and next week in Whangārei when the World Cup quarter-finals will be played at the Northland Events Centre.
Kensington Motel owners Gordon and Heather Law had a mishmash of people staying at their rental accommodation and said the global tournament has put Whangārei and the Northland region as a whole on the world map.
“Scotland players’ parents stayed here last weekend and the weekend before. We’ve also had French and Italian fans. A lot of good things have happened in the city recently, like the Hundertwasser, and people don’t realise the hidden gems in Northland,” Heather Law said.
The couple gave up corporate jobs in Auckland a year ago and bought the hotel, and apart from a brief period when the region was in Covid lockdown, business has been good.
Their other clients are patients booked for treatment at the nearby Kensington Hospital and their relatives and corporate clients.
Sharon Macmillan, owner of Bella Vista Motel in Whangārei, said no hotels or motels could take bookings for the next two to three weeks as the World Cup and other events were hosted around the region.
Crew from Spark Sport televising all the games from the Northland Events Centre booked Bella Vista way back in 2020 when the venue was announced.
“This is my seventh year here and business is the best I’ve ever had. I think this summer, we’re going to go back to pre-Covid times for everybody. The cruise ships are returning which is good news,” Macmillan said.
Justin Le Cheminant, co-owner of refurbished Mokaba Cafe and Riverside Cafe at the Whangārei Town Basin, reckons good times lie ahead after a tough three years for everyone.
“Summer will be here after the World Cup, then the school holidays, then Christmas… it’s such a buzz. We get an American tourist say it’s the first coffee they’ve had in New Zealand and we say ‘welcome to New Zealand’.”
Le Cheminant said Whangārei needed more hotels and motels because the tourism and hospitality sectors would take off from here, as long as there were no further disruptions.
He read a report in the BBC news after the England-France pool match last weekend that mentioned the venue of that match which, he said, was great publicity for the town by a reputable media organisation.
Le Cheminant said the Hundertwasser building, next to his business, has been the catalyst for a number of businesses in town.
Jovial Judge Tavern in central Whangārei has been busy even during the day since the Cup started and co-owner Juliet Morrison said she expected an even bigger crowd this evening.
“Not only did we have good weekends but midweeks as well. We had the teams’ management here for lunch and dinner and one night, we had the Australian team and they had a great night.”
Morrison said her staff planned entertainment around the games so rugby fans could trickle in during and after matches.
Last Saturday, live music started at 8pm and the same is planned tonight.
“We’re really thrilled at having the Rugby World Cup games here, particularly on the back of Covid, when there’s a lot more people moving around and we’ve also got Christmas coming up and university students returning home,” Morrison said.
“We want to make an impression to the visitors that this is home away from home, not only from our own business point of view but from Whangārei as a whole,” she said.
Northland Inc general manager destination Tania Burt said the Rugby World Cup events in Whangārei provided a great boost for the hospitality and tourism operators in the region.
She said while it was too early to measure the economic benefits, the opportunity to put Taitokerau in the spotlight and share our culture and experiences with visitors was fantastic.
“We encourage those visiting Whangārei to explore the city and wider region, to make the most of their time in the north.”
Other events in Whangārei today are the Whangārei Record Collectors Fair at ONEONESIX on Bank St from 10am, Artisans’ Market at the Canopy Bridge between 1.30pm and 5pm and the Tutukaka Twilight Market at the Tutukaka Marina at 4.30pm.
Tomorrow, The Bicycle & the Butcher’s Daughter play at Forum North, between 4pm and 5.30pm.
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Accommodation and hospitality sectors are booming in Whangārei, thanks to the rugby.

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