Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd, who’s departing to run Southland’s regional development agency, says he isn’t leaving unfinished business behind.
The tourism promotion organisation was “humming and in great shape, significantly, with the team, but also with [this year’s extra $900,000] funding in place”.
He says there are “a lot of great initiatives that the team are now leading to take the organisation forward”.
The pending visitor levy and reformatting of the DQ-owned Queenstown Winter Festival are “a couple of things that I think are positives for the community”.
“A few years ago we did a full rebranding of the organisation so, yeah, there’s some achievements that I’m very proud of.”
But after 12-and-a-half years with DQ, the past seven-and-a-half as CEO, “it is also time to let someone with fresh perspective and a new view of things to come in and take the position”.
Budd’s resignation announcement, last Friday, came two days after a speech at a Chamber of Commerce function where he urged that balance be brought back to the debate on tourism growth.
He tells Mountain Scene: “I think the voice of negative people in our community around the value of tourism, and visitors, to our place, has been too strong.
“It’s a classic example of a vocal minority, and everyone else just getting on with their daily lives and their business.”
He also reiterates that, for DQ, growth is secondary to maintaining a pipeline of ongoing tourism demand with targeted marketing.
Budd doesn’t buy concerns Queenstown could become a victim, like Barcelona and Venice, of ‘overtourism’.
“I think it’s very unfortunate for us to be headlined alongside some of those other destinations.
“This is not to deny that we have some pressure points at some times of the year, primarily around our transport infrastructure. I think if we sort that out, then we’re in great shape for the future.”
He’s untroubled that some major tourism markets are slowing down – “it’s just a short-term cycle”.
However he’s disappointed Queenstown’s still not got a decent-sized conference centre – “that remains an opportunity for our community”.
Though moving to Invercargill in February to run Great South – a job encompassing economic development, including tourism – Budd says there’ll be linkages to his DQ job with collaborative work underway between regions in the lower South Island.
And any advice for his successor?
“I wouldn’t presume to offer any advice other than, embrace the place and the people,” he says.