Only a couple of months ago the Southern Lakes region was riding high on the back of a thriving tourism industry.
The burgeoning tourist sector, growing population and construction industry had created a prosperous time for the region. Mass tourism was putting a major strain on our infrastructure.
Covid-19 rudely interrupted and has changed our way of life for now.
The Lakes region, heavily dependent on tourism, will be impacted severely and the reverberations will be widespread.
The black swan event has not diminished the seductive lure of our region.
Bill Clinton described the place as “breathtaking”.
We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, with crisp clean air, lakes, rivers and outstanding natural landscapes.
Once borders re-open the world will still wish to visit our beautiful region.
The lockdown ensured the health of our nation, and protected our international profile as a high-quality country – this is good for future tourism.
Strong tourism and prosperous times will return.
History proves this to be true.
The government has called for shovel-ready projects, with talk of $250 million earmarked for our district.
We must ensure the stimulus benefit extends well beyond the construction phase, and is a long-term benefit to the region.
Kiwis are a friendly, hospitable bunch, however mass tourism has worn our good nature thin.
There have been voices to change our current tourism model.
The way we do tourism is firmly entrenched, and I suspect will return in similar form, however we should not ignore initiatives that create positive change.
Therefore we should utilise government stimulus capital wisely and focus on enhancing our product to cater to higher-yielding visitors.
The development of tourism infrastructure now will have a long-term positive economic benefit to our region.
Our vibrant town centres complement our beautiful environment.
The calm of this time presents the opportunity to invest in those town centres. Give them a full makeover and landscape to an international standard, and build the much-talked-about convention centre in downtown Queenstown.
Crown funding creates the opportunity to develop such a facility which will deliver positive, long-term ongoing stimulus for the entire business community.
This fits with a desire to attract higher-yielding, more sophisticated tourists and will have positive GST benefit to the government.
Convention and meeting visitors tend to stay longer, return to the destination, and are higher-spending than ordinary tourists.
A fit-for-purpose international standard conference centre in New Zealand’s most well-known visitor destination would likely have high utilisation.
If situated on Stanley Street, as an example, a newly-polished vibrant downtown Queenstown would be on its doorstep with easy access to visitor accommodation, cafes, bars, restaurants, retailers, entertainment and activity operators, all of whom would derive great long-term benefits.
While the next few years will be challenging times, we should not lose sight of a much brighter future beyond the impact of Covid-19.
Let’s use this time to improve our tourism product, ensure we are well-presented, open for business and ready to show our visitors a great time when the good times return.
Andrew Hyndman’s a property consultant and advisor with QProperty and specialises in commercial property valuation, corporate real estate advisory and project management in the Queenstown Lakes