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Aussies saved us in winter – so now they’re being targeted for summer

Aussies have made Queens­town’s winter – now they’re being called on to save our summer.

The resort has ignored world economic problems as it has basked in record winter busi­­-ness, fuelled by strong Australian visitor numbers.

But this summer, which is traditionally the resort’s peak season, that is expected to change.

Destination Queenstown marketing boss Graham Budd conservatively predicts visitor numbers could decrease five per cent this summer, compared with the previous one.

The main fall-offs will be from long-haul markets such as Europe, the United States and especially Asia, Budd says.

“Given they’re proportionately a bigger part of our visitor numbers in summer, that does remain a concern.

“It’s compounded by the fact booking deadlines, even from some of our long-haul markets, are a lot shorter than they used to be.”

Budd hopes the loss of long-haul visitor traffic will be offset in large part by more Australians, who normally make up only a quarter of Queenstown’s inbound summer market.

“We don’t have the same profile [in Australia] as a summer destination – we’re competing against pretty much every other regional beach and traditional summer destination that you can think of.”

In the next few weeks, DQ will roll out its first summer cam­­paign in Australia, spending about $200,000, which Budd hopes will bear fruit along with marketing from Tourism New Zealand.

More trans-Tasman flights over summer, including the new service introduced by Pacific Blue last Saturday, “are certainly part of the equation in terms of expecting the Aussie market to be up this year”.

Both the youth/backpacker and conference/meeting markets are also holding up well, Budd says.

Ken Matthews, boss of Queenstown-based tourism company Skyline Enter­prises, is picking numbers will be down three to five per cent this summer.

“We think numbers will be back, but not to the same extent as we might have perceived four or five months ago.”

Real Journeys, another major player, expects numbers to be “slightly down” this summer, boss Dave Hawkey says.

He also believes the Aussie market could be a saviour.

“We are lucky in that we have so many assets that Australians particularly enjoy, such as the fjords and Queenstown.”