Marathon on track to be a success

Despite international border closures, this year’s Queenstown Marathon is still on target to attract 10,000 people to start lines across the Wakatipu next month, amid predictions it will directly inject almost $8 million into the local economy.

Ironman Group Oceania managing director Dave Beeche said when numbers were compared with last year’s, Covid had not had as great an impact as initially feared.

In 2019 the event — the largest sporting event in the Wakatipu per annum — attracted 12,667 entrants, 26% of those from overseas, and contributed $11.2 million to the economy, making it the second-biggest weekend of the year after New Year.

Mr Beeche said while international visitors would be missing next month, there were still 900 registered from overseas. He doubted any would come.

That said, domestic entrants were strong for the seventh annual event — Canterbury accounted for 28%, followed by Otago (23%) and Auckland (20%).

While the projected economic benefit would be down because international visitors stayed twice as long, each entrant would have "1.2" people with them.

"The good thing about our audience is that they do spend.

"I always wander around town and talk to the restaurants and the retailers — our customers eat out and go into retailers.

"Outside Sports said it was their busiest weekend of the year, I think it was, in terms of sales.

"That’s what it’s all about.

"It’s still going to be a busy weekend."

Mr Beeche said there was still accommodation capacity in Queenstown for the marathon, for which New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty had sponsored naming rights, and he believed former naming rights sponsor Air New Zealand would look to bring in extra flights for the November 21 event.

However, event organisers were still "on a knife edge" in terms of potential changes in alert levels.

Mr Beeche said New Zealand needed to learn from Australia, where large-scale events could run provided they had an approved "Covid safe plan".

"We’ve been lobbying the Government with the NZ Events Association trying to move us from this blanket 100-limit restrictions into a more, I guess, sophisticated approach so as we learn to live with this ... events like ours can at least work with some kind of certainty, so that if there is a higher alert level then we just roll out all these risk-mitigation measures.

"We’re not there yet, though.

"For Auckland Marathon in 10 days and Queenstown in November, we’re just sitting on a knife edge ... and we wait."

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