Parting Shot: Welcome to Queenstown, feel the aspiration


How much do you earn? This is, apparently, a common question in such uncouth places as the United States of America.

They’ll ask you how much you ‘take down in a year’ before they know your name.

Queenstown’s now taking the same attitude towards tourists. How much will you spend?

That’s what we want to know - so we can value your worth on how much you splash the cash.

In the council’s convention centre business case to government, consultants MartinJenkins stress the need to attract more high-value visitors to the resort - and fewer backpackers.

The logic is fewer people spending more equals less pressure on infrastructure and nature.

We’d prefer, say, boxer Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather making it rain on strippers in Club 88 than a visit by the Dalai Lama.

The business case warns Queenstown needs to build a convention centre to attract more business visitors.

If it doesn’t: “…it is possible the district will attract increasing volumes of lower-value visitors, typified by adventure-seeking backpackers arriving over the winter and summer months.”

God forbid the self-styled adventure capital of the world attracts people seeking adventure.

It continues: “The back packing brand will undermine Queenstown’s appeal to the higher value and business traveller market, which will have knock-on effects on the national tourism industry and economy.”

Affect the national economy? Undermine Queenstown’s appeal to the high-value market?

Ok, so I don’t want some freedom-camping shoeless earthchild taking a dump outside my house either but surely this is overstating the case, and over-simplifying it too. It’s the vibrancy of the town that makes it attractive to many - all those Aussie tourists, our biggest market, come because Queenstown looks like fun, not a networking opportunity.

Who wants to go on holiday with the suits and the red trouser brigade?

I can understand the desire to ensure the town centre doesn’t become some sad collection of hostels, thrift shops and all-you-can-drink bars.

There have, according to the report, “already been concerns expressed by landlords and retailers in Queenstown about the town centre becoming a servicing centre for back packers”.

But we don’t want it to become some soulless business district either.

When council recently released its uber-weird blank people Beach Street pedestrianisation image, I didn’t realise it was aspirational.

Surely we want to see multitudes of different colourful people in the resort, from the tattooed backpackers on the beach and dreadlocked buskers to the Japanese businessmen playing golf.

The problems with Martin Jenkins’ assertions are, firstly, that we do want to attract more low-value visitors. We want more visitors as a whole.

Sure, we want to attract high-value more, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

There are backpackers here now, and there’s no shortage of private jets arriving at Queenstown Airport.

And it’s the backpacking ‘brand’ that has made the town what it is in some ways.

Who’s been doing bungy jumps, canyon swings, white water rafting and drinking in the town’s bars for the past 20 years?

Personally I reckon we do need a town centre convention centre but, full disclosure, my wife works as a conference and events manager, so perhaps I’m biased.

But I don’t believe we have to bag the backpackers to get one.