Hospo chief hanging on for the bubble

Good Group chief executive Russell Gray. Photo: Mountain Scene
Good Group chief executive Russell Gray. Photo: Mountain Scene
The boss of one of Queenstown’s biggest hospo companies is bullish about the resort’s prospects, predicting a transtasman bubble could be only three months away.

Good Group chief executive and part-owner Russell Gray says the company, which owns 14 venues in the resort and Auckland, is managing its way through the pandemic "as well as anyone could expect".

"It restructured early, and accepted it has to operate in a shrunken market."

Its portfolio includes resort eateries Botswana Butchery and White + Wong’s, as well as Bardeaux, Barmuda and Harry’s Pool Bar.

To borrow a familiar phrase, the company went "hard and early" after the borders were closed, making about 150 of its roughly 350 staff across the country redundant last May.

It also has eggs in two baskets, with its venues in Auckland, where the big population makes the economy more self-sufficient, faring better than those in the resort.

Gray, who’s living in Melbourne, reckons with vaccines being rolled out on both sides of the Tasman, a two-way bubble could be in place within three months.

Also a frequent visitor to Sydney, he says everyone he talks to "can’t wait" to travel to Queenstown.

"They realise they’re unlikely to be able to go to the rest of the world for some time, they’ve done many trips around Australia already, so Queenstown’s the destination that really has magnificent appeal."

But he’s acutely aware of the challenges facing the resort’s hospo venues after a  "disappointing" summer’s trading, and supports recent calls for the government to resume targeted financial support for its struggling hospo and tourism businesses.

"What’s important is that Queenstown is supported to ensure it’s ready to resurge when the transtasman bubble actually does happen.

"It has punched well above its weight for decades in terms of its contribution to [the government’s] GDP, tax take and GST, and all we’re asking for now is to give us a helping hand to get us through what is going to be a pretty challenging shoulder season.

"We want to keep business going so that we can take advantage for the benefit of all of NZ."

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