Fox Glacier hostel throws in the towel as border remains closed to backpackers

The West Coast hostel is one of half a dozen facing liquidation. Photo: File
The West Coast hostel is one of half a dozen facing liquidation. Photo: File
After $100,000 and 15 months in hibernation, a popular Fox Glacier hostel has thrown in the towel and is selling everything from the spa pools to newly laid carpets.

The Fox Glacier Inn and Bigfoot Bar has been mothballed since June last year following the first Covid lockdown.

"Whatever you can take out of the hotel, we're selling it," says owner Hitesh Talreja.

After a change in landlords and lease increase on August 2, Talreja says he had little option but to close the business and sell his chattels.

"Everybody wants a bargain. All we're asking is a fair price," says Talreja.

With little sign of a return of international tourism and the backpackers that drove the region's hospitality businesses, the company has gone into liquidation. Even Sir Cedric, an eight-foot-tall yeti, mascot of the hostel is to go.

"There was a point when the town had 2000 to 3000 guests a night. Now we're lucky if we have 30, on a very good day."

Talreja says while they are still on site to conduct viewings, it has been a month and 10 days since the power was disconnected, which has been sad to see. Empty businesses in the region are unlikely to hold their value.

"It's not Queenstown," he said. "I don't know what their plan is but they have lost a hotel worth a million dollars, and they'll get a building back worth maybe $300K."

Lease holder of the Fox Glacier property since 2015, it was a difficult decision to sell his hold to the new landlord for the nominal fee of $1.

"I feel really bad, because I've got a way out. There are still businesses with a husband and wife or a family who don't have an option to just get up and walk away."

At the bottom of the West Coast, the Glacier Country has been disproportionately affected by the closed borders.

Last week Westland Mayor Bruce Smith told the Otago Daily Times the Fox Glacier Inn was one of at least five businesses in Franz Josef and Fox Glacier which were ready to ''pull the pin'', without any promise on the return of international tourism.

While some parts of the region have been able to get by on a handful of domestic visitors, the distance from any major city has been a challenge for Fox and Franz Josef.

Since the latest August 18 lockdown and a lack of travel from Auckland, the region has been especially quiet.

Fox is five hours away from Christchurch, four from Queenstown.

"I drove to Fox Glacier from Queenstown last week, the day we went into Level 2," said Talreja.

"After Haast, I saw only one car."

 

 

 

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