Businesses confident

Queenstown business owners and operators say they are confident they can meet the demands of the radically changing visitor market, but it is harder than ever for some to find skilled staff.

These were among the findings of the first in a new series of six-monthly ''Business Confidence Surveys'' conducted by the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce.

The results showed a lift in business confidence for the next six months for both the Wakatipu and national economies.

A total of 58.4% of respondents believed Queenstown's economy would improve over the next six months, while 38% believed ''more of the same'' was in store.

In addition, 60.6% of the respondents anticipated their business would improve during the period with 35.8% expecting it to remain the same.

Another positive indicator for the resort was that 54.5% of respondents who said their business performance was up for the Christmas and New Year period compared with the previous period.

However, 52.8% of respondents said demand for product and services was the main factor limiting them from expanding their activities.

A total of 27.9% of businesses found it harder to find skilled staff than three months ago;

5.9% found it easier, while 53.7% said they found it the same.

Up to 14% of business owner-operators said they also found it harder than it was three months ago to find unskilled staff;

8.8% found it easier, while 49.3% said they find it the same.

The highest areas of concern for the next six months were visitor numbers, staff costs and exchange rates.

Meanwhile, 40.4% of respondents expected investment by their businesses to be up, with 45.6% anticipating it to be the same over the next 12 months.

A total of 58.6% of respondents believed the visitor mix had changed over the past six to 12 months with the Chinese market shifting the most.

Some 69.6% of respondents thought their businesses were prepared for future changes in the visitor market.

Chamber chief executive Ann Lockhart said on Friday ''the findings are positive, the trend is upwards, which is very heartening.

''We had a very strong Christmas and New Year which seems to be carrying on into February-March.

''The message is consistent with [Destination Queenstown chief executive] Graham Budd's comments in the Queenstown Times [on Friday] who said bookings are good and people are spending.''

For the first time in three years, members were quizzed in a chamber survey between January 17 and February 4 and 137 responded.