Opinion – Wake up Queenstown

Queenstown – A year on since NZ cancelled overseas tourism until the global pandemic emergency is resolved and this tourism-dependent town still hasn’t learned to meet the needs of the domestic market.

Action-packed Queenstown will be on the radar of families around NZ looking to make the most of the first school holiday break of 2021, but one recent visitor to the hard-hit tourist mecca was not impressed with the experience…

I spent the past weekend enjoying the sights and scenery in Queenstown. This was the third time in 12 months that my wife, Ann, and I have done this; being based in Christchurch means it is a relaxing 500km-odd journey through some stunning scenery and quintessentially New Zealand small towns.

A nice drive.

What isn’t nice is Queenstown’s belief that any visitor to their picturesque town is really an overseas tourist in disguise and as such needs to be fleeced.

Overseas tourists are usually so scenery-struck that they are easy prey for overpriced everything. New Zealanders visiting Tourism’s ‘Crown Jewel’ can spot inflated prices a mile away.

There was no shortage of people walking around the streets of Queenstown on this Saturday morning and if they are not spending in the shops or on the attractions it’s probably because the prices are far too high. It’s not rocket science, but this does seem to be outside the wider Queenstown business community’s grasp.

In my three days in Queenstown, we had arguments over advertised so-called sale prices – as opposed to what you were asked to actually pay – in almost every shop we went into.

Notice boards outside Travel Booking Agencies advertising iconic Queenstown adventure attractions at what appeared to be impressively low prices were actually headlining the reduction in prices, misleading at best. The actual prices were still very expensive.

Promotional vouchers also proved difficult to redeem and paying twenty six cents a litre extra for the same fuel in Christchurch irked. I also could not see any sign of competition among the numerous fuel outlets.

While re-filling, I spotted a Parking Infringement Notice from the night before tucked under the far corner of the wiper blade. Timed at 8.32pm as we were dining in a restaurant close by – 8.32pm on a Saturday night. Welcome to Queenstown.

I have in the past had some sympathy for Queenstown’s plight brought on by the closing of the borders, but not anymore. They, like the rest of us have been dealing with Covid-19 for a year now and as anyone in business will tell you, you need to be flexible and to adapt to the economic reality in front of you now and the future.

In any article written on this subject that I have seen, I am yet to see anyone from Queenstown address the core issue of overpricing (polite way of putting it).

Queenstown, built on catering for the overseas market, must have seen that it was obvious a year ago that it would be some time before the overseas tourists would be back and certainly not in the numbers previously.

Their sulking approach to this has been to lament the fact that Kiwi travellers, the only game in town at present, don’t spend the way overseas tourists do. They do however want Kiwis to come and support the town. They are meeting the market they say.

Reducing prices from exorbitant to expensive and then expecting locals to support them is not meeting the market.

Try harder Queenstown.

Anthony Richards