Hotels could close until end of year

The 5-star Sofitel Hotel and Spa, in Duke St, has shut, like many others in Queenstown during the...
The 5-star Sofitel Hotel and Spa, in Duke St, has shut, like many others in Queenstown during the Covid-19 lockdown. PHOTO: MATTHEW MCKEW
Hotels in Queenstown could remain shut until the end of the year and the industry could employ half the people it once did, an owner has suggested.

The majority of hotels in Queenstown have closed due to the lockdown and those that remain open have just a handful of guests.

Graham Wilkinson, owner of the St Moritz and Sofitel hotels, warned the end of lockdown would not signal much improvement, as most ski tourists came from Auckland and Australia.

He said that even with travel restrictions lifted, “Air New Zealand can’t suddenly get back up to capacity in 15 minutes. It’s going to take them months".

He believes hotels will run at below 20% capacity for the rest of the year and some may even find it more economic to stay closed.

Despite the hardship, Mr Wilkinson praised the Government for its "courageous stance", but admitted he was thinking twice about opening a planned third hotel in the town.

"You have to be pretty churlish not to say she [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] has done a good job.’’

Millbrook Resort’s director of operations Brian Howie said that while everybody would want the lockdown period to be as short as possible, it was important the "pain achieved its objective".

Sherwood Hotel’s Sam Chapman said he would be looking at ways to redeploy staff, such as in fruit picking, after lockdown.

"We have got a great team of people. We would love to do what we can to be able to keep everyone employed and useful."

He praised the Government’s “fast action" on wage subsidies, which had given "everyone a bit of certainty for the short term".

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