Large tourist groups are snubbing New Zealand because of a Queenstown hotel shortage.
The boss of an inbound tour company reveals groups unable to book accommodation at the resort are bypassing the country altogether.
The senior manager, who asked not to be named, says: “I believe it will dampen growth into NZ.”
He adds: “Queenstown is short three 250-room hotels now.”
Tourism Export Council boss Lesley Immink confirms the situation, calling it a “crisis”.
“We’re losing business from NZ and the South Pacific because if they can’t get accommodation in Sydney, Auckland or Queenstown they can’t complete their itineraries and they’re actually going elsewhere.”
Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd says it’s mainly a timing issue for large groups.
Independent travellers can usually find rooms, he says, though they might balk at the prices being charged this week.
Budd says the resort desperately needs more four-star-plus hotel rooms.
Given the rapidly growing, year-round demand in Queenstown he “wouldn’t disagree” that 750 hotel rooms are needed immediately.
But he maintains the town’s “nicely busy” and that everyone he talks to - bars, restaurants, accommodation houses - is having a bumper summer.
Local Hospitality NZ branch president Chris Buckley, a publican, says Queenstown has to take the good with the bad.
With more people in town there’s more money spent - “which is a huge bonus for everyone”.
The country’s in the grip of a tourism boom. It cracked three million international visitors for the first time in the year to July.
Night flights will land in Queenstown this winter and the resort stands to benefit from Auckland’s extra air links to Asia.
February has become a super-peak in Queenstown, as the traditional bustle of visitors from Western countries coincides with Chinese New Year.
A search on online hotel website Booking.com found just four rooms available in Queenstown tonight, with the cheapest $394. That “Queenstown” search also threw up rooms in Wanaka and Cromwell.
Some cheeky Chinese operators are apparently accommodating overseas tourists as far away as Gore and calling it Queenstown.
Immink says tour group bookings are up 30 per cent and an average group has lifted from about 30 people during the global financial crisis to 40 or 50 people.
Queenstown is bursting at the seams, she says, and it needs “consolidation”.
“You can’t even look after your local infrastructure development let alone thinking about the new tourism
Two small hotel developments in Queenstown are underway - a 54-apartment Ramada Hotel at Remarkables Park and a 54-room boutique hotel in Henry Street.
Several large hotels have announced costly upgrades: Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak and Rydges Lakeland Resort.
Several development sites in the CBD sold last year. Two of them - 130 Frankton Road and 44 Lake Esplanade - are consented hotel sites.
As revealed in today’s paper, a large development site at the top of Shotover Street is on the market, with unconsented plans for a 202-room hotel.