Liquor outlets have been given advanced warning as Aussie “schoolies” hit Queenstown.
Hundreds of teenage school leavers are due to descend on the resort this weekend.
But the operators behind the package tours insist the town will not face the booze-fuelled mayhem that has blighted Australia’s Gold Coast.
One firm – Cutting Edge Adventures – has even written to bar and club owners to ensure they do not serve minors or intoxicated teens. Its tour guides will also visit every bottle shop to ensure minors on the trip can’t buy booze.
And Cutting Edge director Tim Jones has invited police to brief the youngsters.
“Our kids want to get away from the Gold Coast or Bali,” Jones says.
“They don’t want to get mixed up in that drama.
“They are positive and want to do something amazing to celebrate leaving school, like visit Queenstown and go skydiving.”
Each year, there are scores of arrests in Surfer’s Paradise as about 35,000 school leavers celebrate the end of term.
It is now considered an Australian rite of passage but binge drinking, wild antics, fights and drugs have given it a bad rap.
Jones says 50 per cent of the 44 youngsters on his trip are too young to drink – they’re all aged between 16 and 18.
“I’m not saying the [older ones] are not going to go out and have fun.
“But we will ensure the minors don’t drink. And for the kids who are out partying we’ll minimise the risk to themselves and the community.”
The package tours are growing in popularity each year and could provide a welcome tourism boost.
Queenstown bar owner Mike Burgess, whose establishments include The Ballarat Trading Co, Winnies and Buffalo Club, says: “Brilliant. Fantastic. Bring them on.
“The more the merrier. Every retailer and business in Queenstown currently will be welcoming any tourist with open arms.
“We deal with intoxication and underage issues every day.
“We’ve been operating for 10 years and our track record speaks for itself. We don’t need reminding of our responsibilities.
“Wind up the money-go-round,” Burgess says.
Dany Girgis of Aussie firm Sure Thing Schoolies Travel has more than 250 youngsters booked. More are expected each year.
Girgis says groups that head overseas are “more mature”.
“They’re quite a respectful group. They tend to be from higher-income families, or social class, if you want to put it that way.
“They want adventure activities. If they wanted a big party they’d go to the Gold Coast”.
Another firm bringing schoolies, I Like To Party – which also runs pub crawls, Bucket Tour Thailand, and other trips – was unavailable for comment.