Clawing back losses: NZ Hostel Association chair and Adventure Queenstown hostel owner and GM Brett Duncan


Some Queenstown hostels are bearing the brunt of the rental shortage by acting as temporary accommodation for seasonal workers.

But one hostel boss says that’s not a sustainable solution.

Deco Backpackers manager Joyce Chen says requests for long-term — three-month — accommodation make up about 90% of their inquiries.

She says a pick-up in commercial activity over coming months is a good thing, but a mix of long- and short-term guests would be better, ‘‘so there’s a stable income as well as higher income from short-term stays,’’ she says.

New Zealand Hostel Association chair and Adventure Queenstown hostel owner and GM Brett Duncan says shortages in rental housing in Queenstown and the amount of hostel beds lost since 2019 are driving the demand for longer-term hostel accommodation.

‘‘We’ve lost some 45% of our hostel beds in Queenstown due to Covid — just gone.

‘‘A good number of those that have disappeared in the past were probably available for long-term rent over the winter … perhaps putting more pressure on the hostels that are still remaining to have some more long-term beds available,’’ he says.

One hostel worker, who didn’t want to be named, says they’ve been fielding calls from people requesting cheaper rates for longer-term accommodation, which isn’t desirable
in the ‘‘high season’’.

Duncan says smaller, independent hostels may want to limit long-term beds to maximise revenue.

‘‘Emerging from Covid, we’re all trying to get back on our feet … from this winter onwards is going to be the first sustained period of revenue we’ve had in two-and-a-half years.

‘‘We’re going to be looking to try and claw back some of those losses over the coming years.

‘‘With the demand that we’re going to have from short-term holidaymakers, I don’t see it [hostels used for long-term accommodation] being sustainable.’’

Haka lodge manager Charlotte Huxford says over the next few months they’re looking to be about 80% full, which will be an adjustment for staff.

Duncan says hostels have been running at 20% occupancy for most of this year, some at less than 10%, and he expects this winter hostel operators will likely ‘‘strike a balance’’ between short- and long-term guests, ‘‘because there’s still a bit of nervousness as to how well tourism will rebound’’.