The crowds of visitors and shoppers hitting Waiheke over Easter weekend were the first real taste of the island’s busy international tourism trade Akitō Cafe owner Shantala Tengblad had experienced. She opened her Oneroa cafe just two months before the initial Covid lockdown in March 2020.
As a Waiheke cafe owner, she has only ever experienced the chaotic and difficult conditions of trading during a pandemic. Shantala says that while Akitō has always had amazing support from local residents with regular weekend customers keeping the business afloat, it wasn’t until the busy summer season this year that she started feeling like the cafe had a little breathing room.
Other Oneroa business owners had told her to just hold on, wait until the international tourists come back – then you’ll see how good a real Waiheke tourism season is, Shantala says. And when the Auckland region shifted to the “orange” Covid protection setting last week, and the government reopened the borders to vaccinated Australians on 13 April, there was a noticable increase in trade and visitor numbers, culminating in a packed Easter weekend. “Which is a relief – the week before was a bit dead,” she says.
Shantala is excited to see what business will look like as the borders continue to reopen. “We feel blessed, if we can get through these past two years we can get through anything”, she says. • Paul Mitchell
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