Tale of two Queenstowns in 2022

The Cow co-owner Mal Price. Photo: Scene
The Cow co-owner Mal Price. Photo: Scene
As the Covid era drags on, Queenstown’s set to continue with two economies this year - a "gangbusters’’ property and development sector and a struggling tourism sector as long as the borders stay closed.

With Covid’s Omicron variant hovering in the wings, hotelier Mark Rose, from The Rees, is concerned 2022 could be worse than 2021, "which if you asked me six months ago, I’d have said, ‘not a chance’.

"For us, in Queenstown, and for me, especially, at The Rees, through to the end of June is horrific.’’

New Year was "a shot in the arm’’, but beyond that he’d not budgeted on hosting many Kiwis, especially Aucklanders, this month - "they go to the beach for summer’’.

He also queries whether Kiwis will continue travelling here.

"How often do you go to Milford Sound? How often do you come to Queenstown? Is there going to be some fatigue?

"I’m just worried for so many small businesses out there, in the southwest of the South Island, and they’ve all put monkeys on their houses to stay afloat, and if I’m right and it does go for another six months like this, I can just see wholesale carnage.’’

Roses’ only hope is when Omicron arrives, with Kiwis being triple-vaxxed and getting some herd immunity, whether the Aussie border can then reopen.

"If we get Australia, we wouldn’t make lots of money, but we’d stop losing money.’’

For The Cow restaurateur Mal Price, his main concern’s staff shortages.

"That could be ongoing for a couple more years, because we’re not going to get the international borders, i.e. [visitors from] South America, Europe, back here for some time.

"What that’s going to cause is a major burnout with what staff are left.

"I reckon Queenstown might be like Europe for a year or two where places shut down for a month or two in the quiet season and everyone takes their holiday - that’s if they’re still open and trading.’’

By February/March, he also believes the government has to reinstate some sort of wage subsidy, "or the whole hospo game will fall over’’.

Like Rose, he’s gagging for the Aussie bubble to open again, especially before the ski season.

"There’s probably 1000-odd Aussies at least who own properties here, I’m sure they’ll be hanging out to come here, even if it’s not the ski season.’’

Unlike tourism, the local construction industry’s "booming’’.

That’s the word from Peter Soundy, a director of project management company, Rubix.

"We’ve got a lot of work on the books, so it’s looking to be a very promising year,’’ he says.

From his viewpoint, accommodation, apartments and high-end housing are "going gangbusters’’.

"There are certainly concerns about increasing prices and availability of materials’’ that required careful management and flexibility to overcome.

"And we’ve got a few challenges finding enough experienced staff - there’s no people coming into the country, so the pool of expert resources in NZ is becoming a bit restricted.’’

Local realtor Gerard Bligh, from NZ Sotheby’s International Realty, expects the property market will enjoy another strong year - "maybe not massive price increases, but still good activity’’.

The continued low supply of properties for sale would keep prices up.

"We’re still getting a lot of inquiry from Australians who tell us as soon as they can come, they will.

"Some have bought unseen, but I think most people like to stand there and take in the view themselves.’’



Tourism is the biggest spreader of Covid, and I keep waiting to hear how the industry plans to pay for the costs of that, but all I hear are cicadas.
Is tourism once more just socializing the costs of their business, and privatizing the profits? Tourism should be paying its own way, not bludging on the rest of the economy all of the time.



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