Town braces for loss of 'good money-earner'

Aside from disappointing rugby fans of Queenstown, the shift of the National Rugby Sevens tournament to Rotorua has left the resort's accommodation and bar owners disheartened.

For the past decade, the national tournament has reeled in crowds of more than 10,000 over two days, with most of those flowing into bars, restaurants and accommodation outlets.

Business owners in Queenstown, well aware of this, are bracing themselves for what may be a noticeable drop in revenue from January 2014.

On Friday, the New Zealand Rugby Union announced the competition will shift to Rotorua in 2014 and 2015, after being held in Queenstown since 2003.

Queenstown will host its final event on January 12-13 next year. Base Backpackers and Altitude Bar general manager Rich Deane yesterday said he was disheartened to see the tournament leave town as it had always delivered big crowds to both the bar and the lodge.

''It's always been a busy weekend for us. It will be sad to see it leave.''

Mr Deane said the biggest loss would be felt by bars and nightclubs as the weekend had traditionally brought one of the busiest nights of the year - the biggest being New Year's Eve.

''You could always tell that town was busy and the nightlife will be the most affected by it.''

The loss for the backpackers was not entirely clear, he said, as it was hard to know whether the influx of visitors was because of the sevens or because it was mid-January. Queenstown Lakes District Council Holiday Parks general manager Greg Hartshorne agreed it would be a big loss. However, the time of year meant the numbers lost in sevens fans would be made up in summer holidaymakers.

''Of course we will notice it. If anything leaves town, it's business that is lost for many of us and it is gone forever.''

Rotorua has gained a two-year contract, after which the NZRU will review its success.

Mr Hartshorne said if the tournament had been held in a shoulder season, such as May or November, the impact would have been much larger because the lost bookings would be hard to replace.

''It's been a good money-earner for Queenstown as a whole.''

Mr Hartshorne said the biggest loss for the resort was the television coverage, as it was ''free'' advertising for Queenstown.

Local drinking establishment the Pig and Whistle has been one of the tournament's traditional meeting points at play's end. General manager Brent Edgerton said the loss would most definitely affect trade and ''leave a massive hole''.

''It was always a massive weekend for us ... there is nothing we can do about it.''

The NZRU said the change was made as it wished to ''upscale'' the event ahead of the game being included in the 2016 Olympics.

The new location is an attempt to take the tournament to a new level.

Next year, Queenstown will host six women's sevens team for the first time.