Queenstown’s Gay Ski Week QT has new owners.
Couple Sally and Mandy Whitewoods, who’ve run the festival since rescuing it from financial strife in 2011, have sold their event company Glam Enterprises to locals Mike Hughes and Martin King.
Sally says they didn’t want to sell till they found someone who shares their passion and beliefs.
She calls Hughes and King “the perfect fit”.
The former Aucklanders have been attending Gay Ski Week for about five years, and, after shifting here in 2016, volunteered at last year’s event.
The couple moved to Queenstown with their young son after King, who’d been HR boss for Coca-Cola Amatil NZ for six years, scored a job running HR for local-based global attractions photography business Magic Memories.
He’s continuing in this job while Hughes – a former teacher training director with a charity placing graduate teachers in lower socio-economic schools– will take the lead role running Gay Ski Week.
“Hopefully this year will be another epic year,” King says.
“The principal formula is a recipe that’s been really successful, and we don’t want to change it, but we do want to grow it and try some new events.
“It’s good for the town, good for the economy – we want to it be an annual event that’s a really critical event in the Queenstown calendar, as well.”
Last year’s event attracted record numbers – almost 2000 people, split mainly between Kiwis and Aussies – and brought about $4.2 million into the local economy, Sally estimates.
“We sold out every single event, which is fantastic.”
She and Mandy initially stepped in to rescue the event seven years ago, when the festival’s event company went into liquidation only three days beforehand.
“Over time it’s just got bigger and bigger,” she says.
“It’s huge – it’s 12 months’ [work] a year.
A financial and psychological stress for three years was a battle with an Australian company which promoted a parallel festival using the former owner’s website domain name.
The parties only settled last April, Sally says.
Sally says she and Mandy are looking forward to having more time for their family – they’ve got a five-year-old son – and their backpacker hostel.
Gay Ski Week QT starts this year on September 1.