School holiday rush ‘great morale boost’

"She's good news."

That is the view of the Queenstown Lakes district’s accommodation providers and tourism operators as they look forward to a busy school holiday period.

Businesses are anticipating plenty of work over the two-week period starting today, as domestic visitors from around the country pour into the region.

Skippers Canyon Jet managing director Ben Hohneck said bookings were "flooding in" for the Queenstown business.

"Some days are almost fully booked for July at the moment so we can’t complain with that, she’s good news."

The company had managed to retain its entire staff since the end of the lockdown.

Ngai Tahu Tourism resumed Shotover Jet operations in Queenstown this week following the Covid-19...
Ngai Tahu Tourism resumed Shotover Jet operations in Queenstown this week following the Covid-19-induced hiatus. The company was among the first to pull operations in Queenstown, announcing in May that 309 of its 348 staff across its tourism ventures would be laid off. PHOTO: NGAI TAHU TOURISM

"I think everyone in Queenstown is keeping the product quality pretty high, which is what Kiwis are after so it’s positive all round."

Skyline Queenstown, which operates the resort’s gondola, was preparing to open for the full fortnight, general manager Wayne Rose said.

It had not been running seven days a week since before the lockdown.

"We are certainly hoping for a busy two weeks, I think pretty much every business in Queenstown is operating for the full seven days a week over the school holidays."

Sofitel Queenstown general manager Jeremy Samuels said the decision to reopen for the school holidays was made about a month and a-half ago, and bookings were looking better than expected.

"We were forecasting around a 30% occupancy, however to date just based on domestic demand we’ll be hitting around 50%, 60% on average over the next two weeks."

The bookings meant the entire Sofitel team remained employed.

"[We are] very, very happy to be sitting where we are."

Five or six hotels had reopened in Queenstown in the past week or so in anticipation of the school holidays, Novotel Queenstown general manager Jim Moore said.

In Wanaka, Edgewater Resort Lake Wanaka general manager Catherine Bone said the hotel expected to be fully booked for at least half of the school holiday period.

"It’s very exciting, it’s been a great morale boost as well for the team."

Bookings were so strong she had been able to rehire a "handful" of staff who had been made redundant after the lockdown.

"It’s been fantastic to be able to offer some of the team their positions back..."

Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde owner Erna Spijkerbosch said the school holiday spike would be much shorter than usual due to the border being closed to regular Australian visitors, whose school holidays usually happened before or after New Zealand’s.

She was less optimistic about the prospects for business after the holidays were over.

Lake Bar Peter Byrne said his Wanaka business had had more bookings from family groups than usual for the school holiday period.

"People are becoming very aware that they need to book at the moment to secure a position when it’s busy, which is seriously handy for us and gives us a bit more ability to plan."

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chairman Craig Douglas said Queen’s Birthday weekend demonstrated domestic tourists had a strong interested in Queenstown.

He said the the upcoming school holiday period was an "opportunity to have New Zealanders visit Queenstown in the winter that wouldn’t have ordinarily visited because they may have gone offshore to the Pacific Islands or somewhere like that".

"So it’s a good opportunity that we can show how good Queenstown is in the winter to a whole new audience."

"It’s surprising how many New Zealanders still haven’t visited Queenstown. If this is the trigger that gets them here, I’m sure that they will visit again."

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