Tourists are flocking back

Despite the lack of decent snow, Queenstown’s having a bumper winter for tourists so far, and they’re pumping the resort’s economy with record spending.

Destination Queenstown data shows 37% more visitors flocked into the resort for the July school holidays than during last year’s winter break and 20% more came here this June compared to June 2022.

Total tourism-related spending reached $60.4 million for June, the highest visitor expenditure for the month ever, up 15% on June 2022 and 19% more than the pre-Covid June in 2019.

Domestic visitors accounted for $33m while international visitors rung $27m through the tills.

Total arrivals into Queenstown airport in June were up 17% on June 2022.

While domestic arrivals were down by 6%, international arrivals were up 124% on last June — although that figure is inflated by international borders not long being re-opened this time last year.

Average accommodation occupancy rates (excluding short-term holiday rentals) for the period June 24 to July 8 was 77.2% — a similar level to February 2023 and up on the same period in 2022.

Destination Queenstown boss Mat Woods is bullish the good times will continue to roll for the rest of 2023.

‘‘With the statistics above and the continuing forward demand for Queenstown, we have confidence for a strong remainder of the year.’’

However, the patchy start to the ski season means the picture’s not all rosy for operators.

Novotel Queenstown Lakeside general manager Jim Moore’s experiencing lower-than-expected booking numbers and a few cancellations — not a good combination, he says.

“We’re stalling”: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside GM Jim Moore

‘‘We were tracking well heading into the season but it has just stalled with the only difference really being lack of snow.

‘‘With North Island and Australian fields open there could well be people choosing to delay or cancel Queenstown for this reason.’’

Snow Rental head honcho Stefan Crawford says business is on par with last year, but 15% down on the pre-Covid winter of 2019.

One area he’s experiencing a spike in is damage to the ski gear being hired out, caused by patchy snow coverage on the trails.

‘‘We’ve already written off 15 pairs of skis and three snowboards this season, which is pretty unheard of — we wouldn’t see that in a whole season normally.

‘‘It’s just the conditions at the moment obviously.

“There’s not much snow around, but hopefully tonight [Wednesday] that changes.”

However, Crawford’s full of praise for the ‘‘bloody awesome’’ job the skifield operators are doing with managing what snow there is.

‘‘If [the lack of snow] carried on for another two weeks I think we’d start to see a big drop-off in our advanced bookings, but we haven’t seen that as yet.’’

Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce boss Sharon Fifield says operators are coping well with the extra visitor numbers because staffing levels are better than last winter.

‘‘These businesses have been operating on hardly any staff and now that’s eased somewhat, it’s feeling a lot more manageable.’’

That’s certainly the case for Novotel’s Moore: ‘‘We are fully staffed and fully operational, having leased accommodation for our team to stay in.’’

And the snow gods may be providing the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle.

The MetService is forecasting a cold snap on its way to the region that will bring 15cm to 25cm of the white gold above 600m and lesser amounts below 300m by this morning and lows hovering around freezing for the week ahead.

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