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The number of domestic visitors coming to Queenstown in January fell 10% compared with last year.
Speaking at Destination Queenstown’s quarterly update chief executive Graham Budd blamed it on poor summer weather and "maybe a few other factors, too".
Addressing an audience of about 125 in the Crowne Plaza yesterday, he outlined a draft business plan for the next two years
focusing on promoting peak, as well as shoulder, seasons.
Destination Queenstown members, including local businesses, tourist operators and accommodation providers, were encouraged to give feedback. A finalised plan will be submitted to the Queenstown Lakes District Council in late April.
Despite the reduction in Kiwi visitors, total annual spend was up by 11% and the domestic market brought in the highest return. New Zealanders spent $681million in the resort, up 5.4%.Australia was ranked No 2 in visitor spending, up 12% to $466million. China, placed third, up by 4% to $236million.
Mr Budd said America, ranked fourth, with spending up 24% to $196million.
He acknowledged locals were feeling a strain in relation to infrastructure, particularly around traffic congestion. While he understood concerns, he said positive messaging about the economic and social benefits visitors brought was important. Speaking to the Otago Daily Times after the breakfast meeting, he was not concerned by the reduction in domestic figures.
"I don’t think there is anything negative in it yet. If we see that in the next few months, then maybe that is a trend, but not yet."
He criticised the perception Queenstown "is full".
"Most of the year, we have capacity. A few days of the year, in our peak time, it might be hard if you just arrive and need accommodation, or you may pay a premium price. But that is what every popular holiday destination around the world is like. To say we are full is completely misleading. In my view, it is having a negative impact on people’s perception of availability of accommodation in Queenstown.
"All our markets, with the exception of domestic in January, are still growing really nicely and that mix is really positive. You don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket."
Mr Budd said it was important to engage with the local community to ensure these perceptions are addressed.