Dark times predicted for tourist towns 'dumped' by Government

Some people have not been sympathetic towards the plight of struggling Queenstown businesses....
Queenstown businesses are worried the coming months will be a struggle. Photo: Getty Images
Queenstown tourism businesses propped up by Government wage subsidies lose their lifeline from today, despite ongoing Covid travel restrictions.

Queenstown qualified for subsidies while Auckland was in Alert Level 4 or, latterly, Level 3, however that’s being replaced by a traffic light system.

Aucklanders can travel here from December 15, but they’re not expected in big numbers, while overseas visitors can’t come till April 30, and only after an unpalatable seven days’ isolation in New Zealand.

For small businesses reliant on the wage subsidy and resurgence payments, losing them is "devastating", local Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes says.

Champions of the World retailer Miles Wilson says as Aucklanders are in lockdown till the 15th, technically the Government’s reneged on its commitment by pulling the subsidy sooner.

And given businesses like his used to rely on 90% foreign visitors, "we’re effectively in lockdown while our international borders are closed".

Tourist towns ‘just been dumped’ by Govt

Nomad Safaris’ David Gatward-Ferguson says the wage subsidy’s been "absolutely essential" since the August lockdown — "our business has since been trading appallingly with probably less than 1% of our pre-Covid level of business".

"[The subsidy’s] allowed us to keep the team who were still with us together."

And because pre-Christmas "is not a travelling time … that’s going to cost [his wife] Amanda and me a lot ’cos we will have to fully fund everyone’s wages with almost zero income".

"We’re coming into a dark period".

Hilton general manager Chris Ehmann. Photo: Scene files
Hilton general manager Chris Ehmann. Photo: Scene files
He feels Queenstown and other tourist towns have "just been dumped" by the Government.

Hilton hotelier Chris Ehmann says the wage subsidy’s been "incredibly helpful".

"It will certainly be challenging without that continuing," especially as he’d not seen many Aucklanders booking yet, and he feels isolation requirements will deter overseas visitors.

Queenstown Taxis boss Grant Scannell says with his drivers having lost 60 to 70% of their income, on average, the weekly $600 top-up definitely helped.

While losing it will "knock them for another six", at least there’ll be work dos and Christmas parties to give them patron age for the next few weeks, he adds.

"But come the end of January, early February, it’s going to be bloody tough."

Queenstown Taxis boss Grant Scannell. Photo: Scene files
Queenstown Taxis boss Grant Scannell. Photo: Scene files
The wage subsidy and other financial support had been "absolutely critical", business events operator, HQ New Zealand’s Rob Stewart-McDonald says.

However, with no business till February, "we will lose $50,000 a month".

He believes the Government has no conception of his sector’s long lead times.

"I’m not sure how we’re supposed to pay our staff."

Mayor Jim Boult confirms he asked Tourism Minister Stuart Nash on Tuesday about the possibility of extending the wage subsidy for Queenstown.

Nash committed to him that he’d raise the issue with Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

scoop@scene.co.nz

Comments

Business ventures have always been reliant on a demand for their particular service, product, etc and the ability to continue to access materials etc to survive. Tourism is no different to gold mining; when the gold runs out the mine is done - the 'gold' has run out so you are done, simple. No different to many, many businesses through out history. Your demand is gone due to a world wide virus, and for no other reason, so, stop blaming the government for your 'gold' running out.

The operations are going to have to "right-size" themselves to the new "normal" of limited overseas tourists. Expecting a continued handout to keep operations and jobs that are vastly underutilised does not make sense.

"Aucklanders can travel here from December 15, but they’re not expected in big numbers, while overseas visitors can’t come till April 30"
The article fails to mention that Aussies can come over from Jan 17. A big proportion of tourists. Or has that changed now too??

Pre Covid I was informed of a house with 7 bedrooms in the Queenstown area which had 17 people living in it, and the landlord was getting $3700 per week, which is $192,400 per annum. Workers were renting couches, or a mattress on the floor, hotbunking, keeping their clothes in the basement. The area is reliant on tourism but so are many other overseas countries. A simple example is Bali. Things just got too hot.

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