Summer tourism indicators mixed

It's been a stormy 10 months so far. In this week's Wakatipu Echo, Destination Queenstown chief executive Tony Everitt says the forecast for summer is for the rain to ease and the sun to appear, but that tourism operators should keep their umbrellas handy, just in case.

Tony Everitt
Tony Everitt
After the February earthquake, Queenstowners took a collective deep breath and remained positive in the belief that we'd soon rip into a strong winter season that would quickly return us to business as usual.

Despite great efforts in every season this year, we now conclude that it's up to summer to start putting things right. Our tourism markets are currently very dynamic, with both positive and negative trends.

Here's what we see.

Firstly, domestic tourism has been the one consistent bright spot for Queenstown throughout 2011.

And there's every reason to expect domestic numbers to continue to shine.

Dairy farmers are pulling in good cash and will be thinking about a well-earned weekend away from the cows while Canterbury folk are still looking for refreshment.

Auckland's micro-economy seems to be doing very nicely, with real estate values tracking north and the Rugby World Cup boosting sentiment.

From Wellington, the launch of a daily jet service to Queenstown three days before Christmas creates real tourism opportunities for our summer season.

Looking overseas next, we're hearing a lot about emerging market resilience to the world's financial challenges. Summer is the time most Asians look to visit Queenstown, and indications are that the season should be a good one.

Airline seat capacity between New Zealand and Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Korea is significantly higher than it was last summer, and the airlines are reporting that the new flights are well booked.

Chinese New Year falls in the third week of January in 2012 (versus early February 2011) so we can expect a particular peak then.

Our Ministry of Economic Development recently announced its expectation that China will become New Zealand's second largest visitor market after Australia by the middle of 2012.

Some observers suggest Queenstown welcomes about 15% of all Chinese tourists to New Zealand, so if we can increase the number of high-end visitors at the same time as the total market grows, that will help.

Indications are that Japanese tours to Queenstown will stay at least three nights, for the first time breaking the traditional two-night average, but numbers of visitors from post-earthquake Japan are not expected to increase over last summer's levels.

Even the US, home of the global financial crisis, is showing some promise.

This summer will set an all time record for baby-boomer cruising Americans visiting New Zealand.

Some will make pre or post-cruise visits to Queenstown, or chose to overland between Port Chalmers and Milford, stopping here on the way.

But we would be negligent not to note dark clouds on the horizon as well.

Some would-be visitors from UK-Europe, after all the Rugby World Cup excitement, will be travel-challenged by the low value of their currencies and economic risks at home.

And the Australian coach-tour market is not what it used to be, as baby-boomers take instead to cruise ships, or use their strong dollar to head for Hawaii, or both.

Queenstown tourism businesses will need to continue to be alert to these rapid changes in our market dynamics.

While there are a number of positive factors, caution will be the order of the day.

We certainly hope that 2012 deals us a kinder hand than this year.

Your team at DQ is, as always, fully committed to doing our utmost to play that hand well.



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