Corona virus, adverse weather events, climate change induced flight shaming, price resistance and entry taxes are just some of the red lights flashing at already slowing tourism growth.
Queenstown’s prolonged strong form has instilled confidence in many businesses and individuals to invest heavily in an increasingly bright future while the pace of change panicked some townsfolk into calling for the council to turn off the tap with politically crafted constraints.
Recent events should remind both the growers and growlers that an endless stream of people visiting us at the bottom of the world isn’t assured. We have been and still are a boom town, subject to cyclical forces often beyond our control which can drop a brick on the accelerator or pull the hand brake. The Wakatipu basin has ridden the roller coaster since its inception. Many have made their fortunes through hard work and good timing while others have been swamped when the tide turns.
The recent shocks from Corona Virus and the tragic deluge which washed out some of our most iconic tourism attractions are not things we can predict but nor should be we surprised, challenges to our social and economic future are trust on us with a degree of regularity.
These shocks are hard for the community with workers and business owners beginning to feel the pinch. Some will be able to ride out the challenges with resilience and others will be less fortunate, particularly employees of impacted businesses who until very recently were in such short supply. Let’s make sure we support them as they are an essential part of our community.
Hopefully this is a small speed bump, not a multi car pile-up and Corona Virus turns out to be over-hyped like SARS and Birdflu and those working on our damaged tracks and roads have strong shovels and fine weather for a swift repair job.
If not we need to brace for impact and evaluate some of or tactics during the good times, continue to diversify and build resilience for the future.
While it’s good when we are running hot, I’ve long been concerned about pigeon holing ourselves to the higher end market and relying heavily on one or two key regions. This came unstuck during the GFC, so while they might not be flavour of the month younger, scruffier and more frugal lifestyle travellers and their bungy jumps and sky dives patched a hole to some extent back then. We should always aim for a diverse visitor mix demographically as a hedge against economic, health or political turmoil in certain markets.
We dragged heals as a community on a world class convention centre which rightly ended up being left to private enterprise. Its eventual completion will reinforce and grow our presence in the lucrative conference and incentive market. Let’s hope we see it emerge from the ground at Remarkables Park sooner rather than later as it will be increasingly vital if the leisure visitor market takes a long term hit. Maybe we needed to chase this harder?
DQ has unveiled a brand refresh, which is a back to future move with Queenstown once again embracing itself as the home of adventure. To be fair this is how we have always viewed ourselves. The vigour and rigour with which this is taken to market will be key.
But we can only do so much and we will still need to roll with the punches as we have always done.
Whether we escape with a flesh wound or take major damage, remember we will have periods where visitors are not smashing down the doors to get in, so it’s lets never get complacent some might say arrogant about our position nor greedy, ungrateful or less welcoming to our guests when it’s busy.
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