Foreign travel in NZ sees slow revival

Published on : Tuesday, September 22, 2020

In the years before, international tourism remained New Zealand’s biggest export —with its majestic alpine scenery, adventure sports and vineyards, Queenstown always remained thriving.


But with the country’s border shutting down since March 19, there are fewer foreign tourists in the resort town. Bars remain shuttered, jet boats stand forlorn, and one of the area’s biggest ski fields is closed Monday to Friday.


Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said, “It was like turning off the key in the ignition of a car, it just stopped. The effect on local business, employment, the local economy has been horrific.”


In Queenstown, property prices are receding from record levels and businesses are cutting costs preparing for a long summer without the arrival of European, North American and Asian tourists.


Boult said that the region is running at about 40% of normal regarding tourist spending, although more New Zealanders are taking the opportunity to visit. Domestic visitors are more price-sensitive than foreigners, and local operators are not capable to avoid the hit.


Glenorchy Air Managing Director James Stokes said that he had to reduce prices to attract domestic travelers with nationwide lockdown lifting in May.


“Straight out of lockdown, prices reduced by 50%. Now they’re down as much as 30%,” Stokes said.


NZ Ski, owning two of the region’s key ski fields, expects visitor numbers to go down by around 30% this season. However, revenue may be down by around 50% because domestic skiers spend less than Australians — who usually make up about a third of visitors — on lessons and equipment hire, said Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson.


Anderson is preparing for a tough 2021, with a slim chance of any advantage if a safe-travel zone can be established with Australia.


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