Make your own luck, industry told

James Coddington
James Coddington
Tourism figures say the industry should concentrate on mitigating risk and creating opportunities in the current difficult climate.

Speaking at a resource management law conference in Queenstown on Friday, NZSki chief executive James Coddington, Ngai Tahu Tourism regional manager David Kennedy, Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore and Challenge Wanaka race director Victoria Murray-Orr all had one message in common - make your own luck.

Mr Coddington told an audience of more than 200 involved in the Queenstown tourism scene that he would not encourage a person adverse to risk to become involved in tourism, particularly in the ski industry.

"We get to be very good at risk in our business. I'm not saying it is something we necessarily enjoy, but something we practise on a regular basis."

He used the example of an avalanche scare at the Remarkables on Thursday afternoon and said the ski industry's biggest risk factor was the weather.

The importance of the man-made snow was highlighted throughout Mr Coddington's talk and he said without it, the 2012 season would have had a maximum of just a two-week opening.

In 1988 the ski field was closed after only three weeks. This year could have been a more dire situation for the company, he said, and he had only the snowmaking machines to thank.

This year was only mildly better in numbers for NZSki than 2011, he said, even after the dramatic interruptions last year of the Christchurch earthquake, Queensland floods, Chilean ash cloud and a warm May and June for Queenstown.

"It was New Zealand's earthquake, not just Christchurch, and the ripple effect for tourism was massive," he said.

"Weather is our greatest risk in the ski industry."

Mr Coddington said part of mitigating the risk of the weather was the introduction of $60 million worth of snow-making equipment at Mt Hutt, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

The difference in the duration of the ski season was 60 days since the snow guns were introduced in 2008.

"What do we think that has done for our community?"

The ski industry delivered $380 million to New Zealand's economy per year and 100,000 Australian visitors per winter he said.

"Many businesses rely on winter to survive. For many it is bigger than summer here."

Mr Kennedy echoed to the region's tourism leaders they needed to use their own initiatives to keep the industry exciting in Queenstown.

He said since 1970, when the Shotover Jet first opened, the jet-boating company had had regulations, bylaws and barriers slapped on it, but had adapted accordingly, to become one of New Zealand's most "iconic" jet-boat rides.