Queenstown's mayor Jim Boult


Queenstown mayor Jim Boult says he’s asking the government to reinstate the wage subsidy for tourism and hospitality ‘‘till we see reasonable levels of business return’’.

The wage subsidy, which wound up early this month, played a critical role in keeping many Queenstown businesses afloat after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down international
tourism six months ago.

Asked how the resort will cope if the long-mooted trans-Tasman bubble is at least six months away, as has been widely predicted, Boult says ‘‘I’m gravely concerned about the tourism industry’’.

‘‘I think, however, operators have in the main figured out they may be able to keep their nose above the financial water on a domestic market, but that will depend on how hard we
drive domestic visitation.’’

He says he’s delighted Air New Zealand’s lifting capacity into Queenstown over the school holidays, starting Saturday, and also pleased the government this month announced the Southern Lakes area’s receiving $8.5 million from an events fund.

‘‘The trick for us now is to convert that [fund] into lots of reasons for Kiwis to come here.

‘‘The [local] tourism industry was worth circa $3 billion, $1.9b was international.

‘‘We’re not going to replace that, but we need to maximise the domestic market to the greatest extent we can.’’

On prospects for that Aussie bubble, Boult thinks the second quarter next year ‘‘might be a reasonable target’’.

‘‘It might be state by state, it doesn’t have to be all of Australia — South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania are looking in pretty good shape.

‘‘Look, if we can get the Aussie market back here by ski season next year, that will be a major shot in the arm for us.’’

On the subject of the government’s controversial strategic tourism assets protection programme, Boult says it’s been ‘‘interesting in that it’s assisted some businesses, but it hasn’t [assisted] the vast majority’’.