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Bleak outlook: A Queenstown Chamber of Commerce survey's revealed about 30 member businesses don't think they'll survive past Christmas

By TRACEY ROXBURGH and CASS MARRETT

Almost a quarter of Queenstown businesses which responded to a Queenstown Chamber of
Commerce survey during lockdown aren’t confident they’ll survive till the end of this year.

The one-off survey, sent at the end of last month to understand the impact of the most recent lockdown, was filled out by a total of 122 businesses.

Overall, almost half weren’t able to trade during Alert Level 4, and 20% will make staff redundant as a consequence.

Almost 90% of respondents lost up to $100,000 in turnover each week — for 5% the loss was more than $500,000 a week, while almost 80% needed government support to survive.

About 30 are potentially looking to shut up shop.

Chamber CEO Ruth Stokes says she’s not surprised at the results, particularly for small businesses across all sectors who continue to battle — sole traders and businesses employing up to 20 people accounted for about 26 of the businesses facing folding.

That said, even some larger businesses, ‘‘the ones with share holders with deep pockets’’, might also have to reassess ‘‘if things continue like this for the next six months’’, she says.

In what’s becoming a tale of two towns, many Chamber members are reporting they’ve had their best year yet, Stokes says.

‘‘But for these small businesses, it’s [heartbreaking].

‘‘For those people for whom it’s dire straits, they are beside them selves … it’s a dire place to be.’’

It’s heartbreaking: Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ruth Stokes

Stokes says, generally, the stress levels aren’t as bad as they were last year, when ‘‘none of us knew what was coming, we all expected the end of the world and the entire economy was going to tank’’.

But, Stokes says, just like last year, it’ll likely be a long, dry summer for most Whakatipu businesses.

The resort averaged 37% occupancy last summer — for the rest of New Zealand that number was close to 60% — and the business community is expecting more of the same this year.

She says the ‘‘myth’’ Queenstown had a strong summer this year had largely come from comments made by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, who keeps trotting out statistics from national carrier, Air New Zealand.

‘‘He often reels out the stat that Air NZ told him that domestic flight numbers to  Queenstown were up 15%.

‘‘But what he doesn’t then say or qualify it with [is] he’s actually referring to a period  between the end of summer and before Auckland went into lockdown again — it was a very small point in time, rather than the whole summer.

‘‘That’s largely contributed to this myth that we’ve had really strong visitation.’’

‘There will be casualties’: Destination Queenstown CEO Paul Abbot

Destination Queenstown CEO Paul Abbot says the longer businesses are forced to deal with
lockdowns and locked-out markets, with no ‘‘defined’’ end in sight, the harder it will be.

‘‘It would be naive to think that there won’t be some casualties, as there has already been over the last 12 months anyway,’’ Abbot says.

He can’t predict how bad those casualties may be, but says the domestic market will continue to play a big role in keeping tourism operators afloat.

‘‘When the announcement was made [Monday] that we’re going to move to Level 2 here, Air NZ immediately pumped in three flights a day out of Wellington and three flights a day out of Christchurch.

‘‘That gives us feed from those markets, which is going to be important.’’

ed@scene.co.nz