Trans-Tasman ski price war under way

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NZSki boss James Coddington says Queenstown has nothing to fear despite Australian ski resorts dramatically slashing prices. 

Australian resorts – such as Perisher in New South Wales – are attempting to lure back Australian tourists this winter through hefty cuts, with up to 30 per cent off lift passes and other discounts. 

Queenstown’s share of the Aussie ski market has rocketed in recent years, with 13,000 holiday arrivals a year in 2006 increasing to 58,000 last year. 

Tourism New Zealand boss Kevin Bowler said last week New Zealand was “dangerously reliant” on Aussie tourists. 

And the desperate cuts by at least five Aussie resorts have prompted fears Queenstown business could suffer. 

But Coddington says Queens­town’s superior product is on a different level. 

Coddington says: “Even with the 30 per cent discount, they’re still not competitive on prices and certainly not on product. 

“First of all, it’s a great compliment. 

“They’re obviously feeling the effects of our increased investment and our superior product delivery over five-plus years. 

“That’s been very successful and a great collaborative approach with Tourism NZ and all the ski fields. 

“Now we’re really starting to get traction in the Australian market. 

“A significant amount of Australians view NZ as their number one choice for their winter ski destination.” 

In 2011, a touch over 15 per cent of the 465,425 holiday arrivals from across the ditch did snow sports, with five per cent bungy jumping and 2.7 per cent skydiving. 

July, August and September are peak months, along with December. 

Australian resorts, including Perisher, Falls Creek and Thredbo, have spent millions of dollars in recent years improving their facilities but have been outpaced by large investment in Queenstown and NZ ski fields, Coddington says. 

“It’s not just the ski fields”, he adds. 

“It’s the increased investment in the airport and by the airlines. A lot of factors come into play.” 

Destination Queenstown mark­eting manager Graham Budd is also bullish about Queenstown’s position. 

Budd says: “I think this is a reaction to the Australian ski areas being overpriced. 

“Queenstown remains highly competitive and attractive in terms of value and these various deals don’t really alter that,” he says. 

“However, it’s when the great value is added to the overall quality of the ski holiday experience that NZ and Queenstown really excel as a choice for Australians.” 

Queenstown is marketed on the Australian east coast as an accessible resort – three hours by air compared to a seven-hour drive to biggest resort Perisher – and for the bars, restaurants and facilities in the town itself. 

It is also marketed as affordable, with skiing for about $90 a day compared to $110 in Australia – after the latest discounts are taken into account. 

And Coddington believes the number of Aussie visitors will continue to increase. 

“Are we too reliant on Australia?” Coddington says. 

“I certainly wouldn’t think so. There’s a big market there and at the moment we’re probably only capturing 10-12 per cent of that total ski market, so we’re really only scratching the surface of where we could be.”