We're a world-class resort; let's build on that success

Tourism in Queenstown has boomed as a result of the region's natural beauty and the...
Tourism in Queenstown has boomed as a result of the region's natural beauty and the entrepreneurial spirit of many of its business people, but perhaps it is time to diversify the market, says New Zealand Hotel Council Queenstown chairwoman Penny Clark. Photo supplied.
In this week's Wakatipu Echo, New Zealand Hotel Council Queenstown chairwoman Penny Clark says a conference centre in Queenstown could be one way of diversifying the tourism market - not just for Queenstown, but the whole of the South Island.

Our town is built primarily on tourism, and for the past 50 years we have enjoyed the fruits of our labours in this direction.

As a small town, we have grown to be a world-class holiday resort and are told we are the jewel in the New Zealand tourism crown.

We have a number of advantages, including our magnificent natural scenery, the entrepreneurial spirit that launched so many amazing attractions and the host of eateries and bars that keep our CBD vibrant.

All of these draw tourists to us.

The commitment of hoteliers and accommodation providers to ensure there are always beds available for people to lay their heads means we are now the second-largest supplier of accommodation in the country after Auckland.

The New Zealand Hotel Council alone has $600 million tied up in Queenstown and we are 34% of the accommodation industry in town.

To have this much accommodation reliant on leisure guests would be foolhardy - putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

It is therefore time for our small town to reconsider our reliance solely on leisure visitors.

We need to diversify and utilise our hospitality resources more efficiently, be more productive with our people and be more consistent, smoothing out the peaks and troughs of seasonal demand.

The town is currently canvassing for ideas, suggestions, land and funding for a fully committed, functional conference centre catering for up to 1200 people.

This could be one way of diversifying and bringing the corporate conference delegates to our area to experience what we have to offer.

Conference delegates are big spenders and, of course, a positive experience here could turn them into our sales force to the world as they return home to enthuse to friends and families about their time in Queenstown. The steering group that is guiding the process has heard from other towns that have built such facilities that the benefits have been enormous.

We've also heard from local event organisers, who tell us that Queenstown is missing out on valuable business because there are no suitable venues.

The business is out there - we just have to provide the facility that will bring it here.

We know it's a proposal that will find favour in many quarters.

We also know that others will have concerns about who will carry the cost of development.

One thing is for certain, we will have to find innovative ways of funding it, rather than leaving it to the council to shoulder the load.

These are only the first steps, but given the need to future-proof our town it is vitally important that the process continues.

It's not just for us either.

The South Island's main conference centre, Christchurch, has been out of action since the earthquake and it's estimated it will take 10 years for the conference centre and supporting hotel infrastructure in Christchurch to return fully.

A conference centre in Queenstown will help keep that business in the South Island rather than losing it.

As a hotelier, I think anything that brings visitors to our town is a bonus; as a resident, anything that directly benefits the prosperity and wellbeing of the community as a whole is to be welcomed.

The steering group has formulated a brief outlining a "wish list" for a potential conference centre.

Interested parties are invited to send in their feedback, concepts and suggestions.

The brief can be downloaded from the Queenstown Lakes District Council website - www.qldc.govt.nzFeedback needs to be submitted by October 14.


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