Queenstown, the star of New Zealand's attractions, is struggling as visitors stay away after Covid

Queenstown, the star of New Zealand’s attractions, is struggling as visitors stay away after Covid

Queenstown, New Zealand (CNN) – It’s an amazing autumn morning in Queenstown, New Zealand. Orange-leafed trees surround the quiet Wakatipu Lake, rocky mountains – the genre of Peter Jackson’s “Peter of the Rings” – a tower in the distance.

It is the perfect place for pictures. But at the moment there are very few tourists.

“It is usually quiet for us in the winter,” says Betty Perkins, owner of the $ 1 million trip that has run boat trips on Lake Queenstown 13 years ago. “But this is not calm.”

There is no active now Corona Virus Cases in New Zealand, a country of five million people. But the borders are still closed, and there is still no precise date for what is expected much Bubble across TasmanWhich will open travel with neighbors Australia.

This is what left Queenstown – usually one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions – struggling.

According to Queenstown NZ, the organization responsible for marketing the area, about 55% of the town’s gross domestic product comes from tourism, and government statistics show that the Queenstown-Lakes region has One of the highest The country’s gross domestic product.
But the coronary virus pandemic is not so. Some cafes and souvenir shops around the lake are closed. Ski operators, who usually start opening in early June, postponed the start of their season. Major attractions such as the Shotover Jet boat ride down the canyons have closed their doors Until July.

New Zealand’s swinging Nevis room may be the most extreme flight in the world, with people tossing nearly 500 feet in just seconds.

Personal losses

All this means that thousands have already lost their jobs.

Queenstown Lake Mayor Jim Bolt estimates that about 7,000 people are currently unemployed, and migrant workers make up about half of these. a A recent report He expected Queenstown’s overall unemployment rate to rise from 1.1% in March of this year, to 18.5% in March of next year – twice the expected national unemployment rate.

Bolt says this has brought the town from New Zealand’s richest people to one of its poorest.

“People are worried, they are really concerned about their jobs, their ability to support their families, and their ability to pay their mortgages and rent,” the mayor says, adding that some of the people who lost their jobs were about to retire.

“Ultimately, nearly every job in the region depends on some type of tourism.”

Perkins is one of the lucky ones – she owns her own company, has few employees and has less overhead, which means they don’t have to lay off anyone. However, she estimates her business income has fallen by 70% compared to normal.

“We just have to stop, we’ll wait for Australia to arrive,” she says.

Air New Zealand has unveiled its new sleeping model. Economy Skynest consists of six full-length flat bedrooms in the economy cabin.

It is similar to Dong Wang, who runs a small dumpling cart by the lake. He is the only source of income for his family, but his earnings have fallen from about NZ $ 200 ($ 130) a day to just $ 50.

“I can do nothing,” says Wang, who is from China but has permanent residence in New Zealand. “Finding a job is very difficult.

Others in Queenstown face an additional problem – they are not citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand, so they are not eligible for unemployment benefit. Statistics show that 40% Residents of Queenstown in the last census were born abroad, although it is not clear how many permanent residents are.

A worker at a souvenir shop in Queenstown who arrived from China six months ago and did not give her name for fear of reprisal says she was about to become redundant. She says that if she does not find another job, she may have to return to China.

Bolt says the council offers food vouchers, medical aid, aid in paying utility bills and even warm clothes, but he believes the issue of unemployed migrant workers is a “humanitarian crisis in the making”.

Attract tourists

Currently, with the New Zealand border closed to almost all foreigners, only people already in the country can visit it Queenstown.
In the past, New Zealanders avoided Queenstown because it had received many international tourists. Now the town is trying to get them there – even Bolt did Bungee jumping On the occasion of relaxing the restrictions of coronavirus in the country in May.

Over the weekend, companies reported booming as people from all over the country descended on the city.

However, according to Bolt, companies will “not survive” on local travelers alone. He hopes that the Trans-Tasman bubble will run by July for the ski season, as Australians make up 30-40% of customers.

“This is really difficult or cut off,” he says, adding that if there is no Trans Tasman bubble by July, more companies will fail and lose more jobs.

Bolt believes Queenstown may never return to previous Covid-style tourism levels in terms of arrivals, and is already looking at ways to diversify the city, including whether it can move to the education, film and medical tourism sectors.

All predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, says Simon Millen, professor of tourism at Auckland University of Technology. But he says Queenstown – a place where much of the economy depends on tourism – will be affected more than other parts of New Zealand.

For those who are still able to visit Queenstown, the current situation is not all bad.

Canadians Anna Wilhelmus and Christie Caldwell were in Queenstown on Friday. They reside in Christchurch where they are midway through a year of studying abroad, but they decide to go out to explore the area.

“It is nice to have everything for ourselves,” says Caldwell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *