Queenstown basks in Royal afterglow

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Queenstown is collectively pinching itself after a right Royal red-letter day with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

The Royal couple’s sun-soaked visit yesterday – which saw them sample the region’s famed Pinot Noir and take a wild ride on Shotover Jet – was front-page news overseas and locally. 

The New Zealand Herald plastered it’s front-page with a huge photo of the pair enjoying some river spray during their Shotover Jet ride in one of the distinctive red boats above the headline ‘Royal waves’. 

In the United Kingdom, the famous red-tops went crazy over the photos and details of the visit. Mega-selling tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mail carried blanket coverage, with The Daily Mail revealing that whilst Kiwi taxpayers were footing most of the bill for the Royal tour, a heavily discounted rate had been negotiated for Kate and Wills’ private night at an exclusive Queenstown lodge. 

The normally $12,000 a night place – fully booked for the Royal stay last night – was reportedly secured for just a few hundred dollars. 

A Kensington Palace spokesman told the Mail: “The New Zealand Government have secured accommodation at very substantially reduced rates, which are actually equivalent to the cost of a room in a local hotel.” 

An aide said the Government and tourism bodies “recognise the extraordinary and positive public spotlight the visit will put on New Zealand and we have taken their recommendation in relation to this accommodation.” 

Central Otago Wine Growers Association president James Dicey, who escorted the Duke through a series of tastings and food matches, says the opportunities created by the Royal visit to Central Otago’s wine industry is huge. 

“The eyes of the world were on Central Otago wine today and that’s something we as a region can be incredibly proud of. 

“We’re still a young wine growing region in a country at the far side of the world, yet we punch well above our weight in the wine world. 

Dicey adds: “To have this many media interested in and talking about Central Otago wine brings such huge benefit to the region now and in the future.” 

Images of the pair taking a wild ride through the Shotover River canyons with Shotover Jet – dubbed “the most exciting jetboat ride in the world” – went round the world. 

Veteran driver Nick Simpson, who drove a back-up boat of the Royal entourage down the river behind the one with the Duke and Duchess on board, said: “Out of all the VIPs we’ve taken down the river over the years, it would be hard to top taking these young members of the Royal family.” 

Shotover operations manager Wayne Paton admits to some nerves despite having done more than 10,000 trips: “Yes there were some…but I feel safer driving the boat than I do driving my car home, because it’s what we do as a job.”