Queenstown future after Covid-19

I am a traveler from Russia, accidentally stuck in Queenstown for an uncertain period of time, as my flight home was cancelled at the end of March.

Recently, I came across the article «Move to guide Queenstown out of 'toughest' time” (https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queenstown/move-guide-queenstown-out-tough...) in which Mayor Jim Bolt suggests thinking about Queenstown's future and developing a development strategy in the face of declining tourism.. I have enough free time now and being a strategic marketing consultant back home, I thought about future options for Queenstown and other South Island areas that depend on the travel industry. I would like to share my thoughts with you.

Firstly, let us look at new realities. Metropolises with their dense population and footprints are slowly becoming unhealthy to live in, at least in people’s minds. After this pandemic many may start considering safer places not only in their countries but around the world. New Zealand does bare a lot of favours in this regard. Long quarantine will develop a new skill for many, which is online decision making, business management and even meeting the dear ones. After that experience, making decisions on moving away from civilization to nature will be much easier than before.

In this situation New Zealand can be positioned as Noah’s Ark - safe and comfortable ark located away from the rest of the world, but fully self-sufficient in great food and fabulous wines. The South Island and Queenstown area would be perfect for nature lovers.

This brings us to residential development for people from around the world. Businesses can be managed online. To avoid ghost houses, and attract money to the local economy, the residents must stay in New Zealand at least 3-6 months during the year, shopping and using local services/utilities regularly.

This scenario will initiate development of programmes for international retirees (visas), who can afford accommodation without taking local jobs, while receiving income from their home countries. Development for such retirement places will require services for high end pensioners. I may be wrong but I think retirement in beautiful Southern Alps with a glass of great wine is much more attractive than grey London with porridge.

As for me, South Island is great not only for elderlies, but for an active and safe childhood as well. Fresh aromatic air, green meadows, tasty fresh and healthy food, safety; just add a little architecture and entertainment concepts, attract leading school and education specialists and here you have it - incredible complex, where many would want to send their children, while working remotely from anywhere; from the comfort of their home or from a cafe on the lakefront. Something like magic Neverland.

South Island may become a great place for bringing up kids and joy of platinum age life. However, others being fond of activities and extreme sports need to find something for themselves too. We should not forget about them.
Queenstown is very well known as a mecca of extreme, but local education institutions are not here as yet. This can be another focus. Imagine a futuristic campus of an international university sitting among Alps and lakes. This campus will be sought after not only by students but also tutors and professors from around the world.

To attract youth in the area it is necessary to develop creative and scientific clusters.

One of the most obvious opportunities can be Southern Silicon Valley. San Francisco with its suburbs is overpopulated and ridiculously expensive. It is not safe healthwise, why would not talented specialists move somewhere else, to a new place. Just as example it can be eco friendly town with fantastic landscapes, engineering and scientifically friendly, not to mention artists from around the world.

Thanks to Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Taika Waititi New Zealand has already become very well known in the movie industry. Great opportunities to dwell on that success. Current movie industry offers landscape locations. Current situation offers digital and prop producing facilities to make another step forward. It is hard to imagine a better place for that.

South Island is not as good as the North in regards to agriculture. However, the views on wine production in the area were sceptical not long ago. New Zealand is one of the world leading producers of eco products. It has better chances than other hundred and fifty countries involved in producing natural cosmetics and dietary supplements. Half of the success has been achieved by the Made In New Zealand brand.

Tourism? Should it be completely forgotten? Does it have any chance to recover? Yes, it does, but most probably not in the same volumes as before. Especially in times when there is a chance of international travel limitations that may be extended to 18 months, until a vaccine has been introduced.
Due to these realities, the travel industry needs to change priorities. Firstly to refocus from mass international to domestic travel and Australia & Oceania areas. Individual travel plans can be offered to foreigners.

Main part of local travel promotion should be annual trips for North Island residents to South Island. It should become a norm and even be looked at as a social responsibility of citizens. Local natural beauties are worth visiting at least once a year.

In support of remote work trends it is a good time to offer North Island residents to move to Queenstown, to be able to work and appreciate local natural beauties during the year or seasonally. Remote workers segment will grow globally after lockdown and it is a great chance to use it to New Zealand's advantage.

Hotels can consider developing long term accommodation programmes, by lowering the price and being able to sell rooms and services.

Looking at stunning natural landscapes out of the window, one can assure that Queenstown and surrounding areas are not going to fail. It takes only one visit to fall in love with the area for the rest of your life. Introducing the area to creative people of the world online and in a road-show format can be one of the leading strategies for attracting investments. Having fallen in love with the place they will be happy to breathe a new life in it. The main task is to create conditions and identify directions which will resonate with local values.

Dmitry Kulikov

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