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Border closure "really hurting": The Rees' Mark Rose

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A long-time Queenstown hotelier fears the resort’s ‘‘facing a catastrophe’’ if the Aussie border remains closed.

The Rees’ Mark Rose says: ‘‘Our business fell off a cliff on Sunday, and apart from a couple of reasonably good days over the next couple of months when we’ve got some conference/incentive business, I’d be 90% down on last year.’’

The resort of course is relying on Kiwi-only visitors, but Rose says, ‘‘I think they’ve had their holidays, they’ve spent their money’’.

He’s not sure they’ll come again, in numbers, till the Easter school holidays.

On top of the Northland Covid case likely further delaying the promised Aussie bubble, Rose thinks Queenstown could also be hit if Kiwis go to Rarotonga, if the two-way Cook Islands bubble opens, rather than Queenstown.

He’s in no doubt ‘‘a bunch of small businesses out there, hospitality, retail and activity businesses, are going to be really hurting’’.

He’s aware of other hotels discounting to attract business, but doesn’t think that’s smart.

‘‘A $99 rate, if you take the GST and booking.com commission off it, it’s $66, and cleaning/maintaining a room, you can’t do it.

‘‘If I was going down to that level, I would close the hotel.’’

He’s not considering mothballing his hotel, reasoning he’ll need staff when the Aussie border does open.

‘‘If you close and you lay off your staff, where do you get them from?’’

He says his staff have been with him through the good times, ‘‘so we’ve got to support them in the bad times’’.

Asked what the government could do, Rose says its $270 million strategic tourism assets protection programme, in which it ‘‘picked some favourites’’, was the most stupid thing he’s ever seen.

‘‘If they’d just used that money as a wage subsidy, and said to everyone, ‘if you’re 80% down, we will help you along’, that’s how it should have been done.

‘‘I believe the wage subsidy was a really good vehicle, and could be used again — a wage subsidy with a clawback in it so if people are doing well, they have to pay it back.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz