Queenstown officials vow resort will stay open

Ruth Stokes
Ruth Stokes
Destination Queenstown is trying to reassure people that the resort will not be closing.

It follows comments earlier this week from the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes, who said "everywhere" in the resort would be "closed by Friday" because of the Covid-19 isolation rules which would force businesses to close.

Cases of the virus have surged in Queenstown this week and many tourist attractions, bars and restaurants have been listed as locations of interest.

While there was no doubt the whole country was facing challenges due to Omicron, Queenstown continued to manage it in line with the Red traffic light setting, Destination Queenstown chairman Richard Thomas said.

The uncertain nature of operating with Covid-19 was not going away any time soon and businesses in the resort were doing a fantastic job of continuing to trade in the difficult environment, he said.

"We are seeing Omicron spreading across New Zealand, and Queenstown is no different, but our businesses are going to great lengths to keep operating safely within the Covid protection framework to keep our visitors safe."

There were certainly challenges operating under the present restrictions, and Destination Queenstown was keen to see things such as rapid antigen tests made widely available to support staffing and help with business continuity, Mr Thomas said.

But his key message was that Queenstown was open for business.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said it was unfortunate the comment earlier this week had been made, but he thought it might have been taken "a bit" out of context.

He believed the comment was made in relation to bars and restaurants — "the town is certainly not closed and it’s not going to close", Mr Boult said.

Operators, particularly hospitality and tourism, in Queenstown were seeing a "very low level of business" and were struggling to get enough staff to stay open because of the isolation issues.

Mr Boult believed it would be "entirely helpful" if there was some rethinking put into the close contact isolation scheme.

When contacted, Mrs Stokes said she believed her comments had been taken out of context.

She had not meant the whole of Queenstown would be closed, but instead had been trying to highlight the unworkability of the Government’s close contact isolation requirements for businesses not considered critical.

"I don’t write the headlines, we wanted to get through how tough it is."

Omicron was having a huge effect on firms in the resort and there were many nervous business owners.

"I’d still urge people, if they feel comfortable to, to still travel to Queenstown and experience the great stuff we have to offer," Mrs Stokes said. — Additional reporting Tracey Roxburgh