Trip down memory lane for our moteliers

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For 40 years, Queenstown motel owners have joined forces to underpin the town’s tourism gold rush. 

Long before the international hotel chains opened their doors, the motels were providing bed and board for weary travellers. 

And it is the service they provided that allowed an infrastructure to grow and the town to become a success story.
The Queenstown Motel Association celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend. 

Pre-dating the Motel Association of New Zealand by two years, it has provided a strong collective voice for its members as they battled to level the playing field for accommodation providers. 

Lifetime member Alan Brown, 72, was one of its first presidents. 

In 1972 he built the Ambassador Motor Lodge on Duke Street, on the site now occupied by the five-star Sofitel. 

“I came to Queenstown in 1964 to open a bank,” he says. 

“I can remember saying to my boss ‘It’s going forward’. So I knew even then but it has exceeded my expectations. 

“In the 70s, when we opened the Ambassador, you could look down and see a maze of old corrugated iron buildings. 

“Ballarat was a proper street cars could travel along, there was a service station by The Mall and a Presbyterian church. 

“It has changed but for the better, with its lovely cosmopolitan architecture and tourism activities.” 

The father-of-four and wife Marie sold the 16-room Ambassador in 2000. 

He is one of the three presidents of the Queenstown association who have gone on to become president of the national body (1983-85), with Stewart Carter (1995-1997) and current president Peter Smith (2009-11). 

Over the years, the association has fought several high profile battles for its members. 

It was instrumental in abolishing the “pan tax”, which saw businesses taxed on the number of toilets they had.
The association also went to court to ensure all bed and breakfast homestays were properly registered and taxed if they accommodated guests over a certain number of nights a year. 

“There has been a lot of hard, detailed work done by association members over the years,” Alan says. 

“We’ve supported each other. Back when it was formed the season was always peaks and troughs. 

“There’d be VW Beetles with skis on the back driving around the town from early May and the town would be busy but dead in the off-season. 

“I can remember finding 16 people sleeping in one of my units once. There were bodies everywhere. 

“Despite all the changes, such as the gondola and housing developments, the town still has the same feel. Many of the local personalities are still around,” Alan says.