We will recover … but the question is, when?


You may recall the Infometrics report done in May of this year which predicated a very dire situation for our district.

At that time, little was known about what effect Covid-19 would have and their report predicted unemployment of 18.5% and a drop in our GDP of 23%.

They also predicted domestic tourism would contract.

All of the above was based on a ‘‘do nothing’’ scenario.

In other words, if we just sat back and let the world take us along for the ride those predictions were likely to come through.

The reality to date has been quite different.

Domestic tourism has been very strong, driven largely by our collective efforts to promote the region, but also by an in-built desire by Kiwis to take a holiday no matter what the circumstances.

And, given that we are one of the most attractive parts of New Zealand, clearly many have chosen to come here.

Retail spend has been better than most predicted, as well, and I’m guessing that this may be a reflection of our inability to take an overseas holiday and
thus spending the cash saved on something else.

But also, perhaps unfortunately, by some living in a false economy with the utilisation of money saved because of mortgage holidays.

Interestingly, the manager of the local store of a national retail chain told me on the weekend that their sales were the highest recorded by any store in the South Island.

Remarkable, indeed, given much larger stores, in larger centres.

I was also surprised at the lack of turn-out by Kiwis at ‘Jobbortunities’.

The vast majority of the 274 who did attend were migrant workers.

Pleasingly, many have ended up with jobs, but given there are around 900 locals on Jobseeker Support at the present time, it’s disappointing we didn’t see many more looking for employment.

While we are having a good run at present, we are now at the end of the school holidays and the end of the ski season.

Naturally, numbers are likely to shrink somewhat over the next few weeks, although some specialist accommodation outlets in town tell me their bookings are very good for the future.

You’ll have also seen recent comment by the Australian Prime Minister regarding Kiwis’ ability to travel to Australia but not vice versa.

That certainly isn’t going to help our local tourism industry, and I wonder how many Kiwis will bother going to Australia if they have to spend two weeks in a managed isolation hotel when they return?

I think a true, mutually beneficial trans-Tasman bubble might be some way off yet.

So what does all this tell us?

Clearly we are still in unchartered waters with no clear idea of how things will pan out over the next six to 12 months.

The very welcome events funding recently secured by this district will assist greatly in giving Kiwis many reasons to visit our part of the world, and this will drive domestic tourism.

Sooner or later, though, we will need international visitors to return, otherwise it will be difficult to keep our collective noses above the financial tide.

And, as I’ve said before, when the international visitors do return, I suspect that as a result of a likely significant increase in the cost of air travel, we will not see the numbers we have in the past.

And, perhaps, for a period this is a good thing.

Tough and interesting times, but we will recover.

The question is, when?

Jim Boult is Queenstown Lakes’ mayor