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A Queenstown Chamber of Commerce survey has revealed about 30 member businesses don't think they...
A Queenstown Chamber of Commerce survey has revealed about 30 member businesses don't think they'll survive past Christmas. Photo: Mountain Scene
Almost a quarter of Queenstown businesses which responded to a Queenstown Chamber of Commerce survey during lockdown aren’t confident they’ll survive till the end of this year.

The one-off survey, sent at the end of last month to understand the impact of the most recent lockdown, was filled out by a total of 122 businesses.

Overall, almost half weren’t able to trade during Alert Level 4, and 20% will make staff redundant as a consequence.

Almost 90% of respondents lost up to $100,000 in turnover each week — for 5% the loss was more than $500,000 a week, while almost 80% needed government support to survive.

About 30 are potentially looking to shut up shop.

Chamber CEO Ruth Stokes says she’s not surprised at the results, particularly for small businesses across all sectors who continue to battle — sole traders and businesses employing up to 20 people accounted for about 26 of the businesses facing folding.

That said, even some larger businesses, "the ones with share holders with deep pockets", might also have to reassess "if things continue like this for the next six months", she says.

In what’s becoming a tale of two towns, many Chamber members are reporting they’ve had their best year yet, Stokes says.

"But for these small businesses, it’s [heartbreaking].

"For those people for whom it’s dire straits, they are beside them selves … it’s a dire place to be."

Stokes says, generally, the stress levels aren’t as bad as they were last year, when "none of us knew what was coming, we all expected the end of the world and the entire economy was going to tank".

But, Stokes says, just like last year, it’ll likely be a long, dry summer for most Wakatipu businesses.

The resort averaged 37% occupancy last summer — for the rest of New Zealand that number was close to 60% — and the business community is expecting more of the same this year.

She says the "myth" Queenstown had a strong summer this year had largely come from comments made by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, who keeps trotting out statistics from national carrier Air New Zealand.

"He often reels out the stat that Air NZ told him that domestic flight numbers to  Queenstown were up 15%.

"But what he doesn’t then say or qualify it with [is] he’s actually referring to a period  between the end of summer and before Auckland went into lockdown again — it was a very small point in time, rather than the whole summer.

"That’s largely contributed to this myth that we’ve had really strong visitation."

Destination Queenstown CEO Paul Abbot says the longer businesses are forced to deal with lockdowns and locked-out markets, with no "defined" end in sight, the harder it will be.

"It would be naive to think that there won’t be some casualties, as there has already been over the last 12 months anyway," Abbot says.

He can’t predict how bad those casualties may be, but says the domestic market will continue to play a big role in keeping tourism operators afloat.

"When the announcement was made [Monday] that we’re going to move to Level 2 here, Air NZ immediately pumped in three flights a day out of Wellington and three flights a day out of Christchurch.

"That gives us feed from those markets, which is going to be important."

 - additional reporting Cass Marrett


I'm glad that many of the businesss that I've visited in Queenstown in the past have the financial reserves to ride this out. They were very smart in charging tourists exorbitant prices for years and years so they would have the money to float themselves through a crisis like this. Some would say they were greedy - but I would argue they were smart. No sympathy here!

A self employed tradesman who has lived in the area for 25 years told me that the hospitality businesses who catered for locals have been doing ok over the past 18 months.

I've made a few harsh comments about Jim Boult and his comments that Queenstown businesses will suffer every time NZ or Australia have a lockdown that stops visitor numbers bringing money into the local economy.

I hate to say it, but this Covid virus is going to change the world of tourism as we know it and he can't just sit back asking for more and more money from government ... other businesses throughout NZ are doing it hard as well. The Delta variant, and possibly others to follow, will mean a lot of businesses may not survive.

One case in Sydney and now 1500 cases a day with a rising death toll ... give a thought to the family who's just been told their baby has just been tested as positive and put yourself in their position for even a minute and see what reality is like.

This is clearly a positioning piece aimed at keeping the profile of Queenstown businesses up there so they can work their arguments for govt support/subsidy/bailout in the future.
Also, I don't doubt one little bit that Queenstown businesses generally have continued to do alright over the last year even without the continual stream of their preferred foreign tourists to milk.
The big problem they seem to face is their inability to recognise the massive extent of change that this pandemic has wrought. Global travel will not return to pre-Covid 19 levels for a very long time. Things are not going to return to normal.
Anyone with half a brain in the tourism industry will be putting their effort and resources into providing services that can work within the new environment.
Those that are will thrive, those sitting on their reserves and hoping that the old normal will come back will go under.

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