‘Tindallgate’ has done wonders for Queenstown’s party reputation – but is it the kind of publicity the resort wants? Ryan Keen reports
Former Destination Queenstown boss David Kennedy doesn’t sign up to the maxim that any publicity is good publicity.
“You can go too far,” he says, reflecting on the late-night antics of the English Rugby World Cup team during their recent stay in Queenstown.
“Maybe we can tone down on the dwarf stuff.”
The team and its stand-in captain Mike Tindall – recently married to royal Zara Phillips – hit the headlines while in Queenstown last week for all the wrong reasons.
First, Britain’s The Sun newspaper, which sells millions of copies a day, broke news of Tindall cosying up to a mystery blonde in Queenstown bar Altitude in the wee hours of a Sunday night.
Then, Altitude bouncer Jonathan Dixon – then working for Queenstown firm Spartar Security – posted revealing footage of the pair from CCTV cameras inside the bar. That’s not to mention Facebook photos of Tindall and team-mates scrumming down with dwarfs – hired entertainment at the bar.
So does Kennedy – who ran DQ for almost 10 years – feel the bizarre scandal dominating Rugby World Cup news off the field hasn’t been healthy for Queenstown’s reputation overseas?
“The party positioning of Queenstown has always been there to a greater or lesser extent – and to an extent it goes hand in hand with the adventure capital positioning.
“I don’t think something like that is too detrimental to Queenstown’s brand position.”
Kennedy adds: “Residents and commercial businesses want Queenstown to be positioned as a premier resort.
“We are a premier resort but as a holiday place you have to have a party atmosphere as well – take out the dwarf stuff and you’re nearly there,” he says.
DQ marketing boss Graham Budd says what needs to be emphasised is Queenstown is a place with something for all.
“It’s disappointing when a particular aspect of town – which appeals to a certain demographic – is highlighted in the negative way that it was. Those guys, whether rugby players or just people in their 20s, are having fun and they’re allowed to do that.”
Overall, Budd says media coverage – particularly from those following the English and Irish teams – has exceeded DQ’s expectations.
“We have this perception of the rugby media being a bit grizzled so to have some of the rave reviews we’ve seen is spectacular.”
There’s been plenty.
Examples include top Irish rugby commentator Michael Corcoran gushing: “Irrespective of what happens with the Rugby World Cup, the memories we take back from Queenstown alone will be something we treasure for a very long time.”
Irish Independent writer Hugh Farrelly reported: “Queenstown is almost too perfect to be true …”
That aside, the blaze of publicity regarding the Tindall incident hasn’t done any favours for mayor Vanessa van Uden’s push to stamp out Queenstown’s hard-partying reputation.
Announcing Queenstown Lakes District Council’s new Bar Safe initiative three weeks ago she said: “We’re not a party town, that’s now how we sell ourselves.
“We don’t need that perception out there in the wider world and we need to be dealing with it.”
Van Uden wasn’t interested in giving her view on the subsequent publicity surrounding Tindallgate, with council communications manager Meaghan Miller saying: “This is not something we are going to be commenting on.”
One thing’s certain – coverage of the incident will continue for a while yet.
Phillips dotted down in Auckland yesterday afternoon and is expected to arrive in Dunedin today – where her husband’s team England play Romania on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Dixon – charged with directly accessing a computer system and dishonestly obtaining video surveillance footage – is to reappear in Queenstown District Court on October 3.
Mike Burgess, the owner of Queenstown’s Ballarat Trading Co bar where the Irish team had a boozy $3000 knees-up, says there’s “not a lot of fun in Tindallgate” but he sees plenty of upside to the associated coverage.
“It’s certainly not painting the town as a dull and boring place where the lights are out at 10pm – and there’s plenty of those in New Zealand.”