Wednesday, 24th June, 2020

The recent economic impact modelling undertaken by data analytics company Infometrics paints a bleak picture for the Queenstown Lakes District.

Unemployment is forecast to rise from 1.1% in March 2020 to 18.5% in March 2021 – double the forecast national rate of 9%, and local job losses are expected to result in lost earnings of $270 million. The largest losses are associated with the accommodation and food services and construction industries. The district’s GDP is projected to contract by 23.3% ($633 million) to March 2021, compared to an 8% decline nationally.

With tourism accounting for 64% of all jobs in the Queenstown Lakes District, and with a heavy reliance on international tourists (they contribute 63% of all tourist spending in the district), our region will be “acutely affected by the pandemic”.

These figures are based on a “do nothing” scenario – whereby the trans-Tasman bubble commences in December, instead of September, there is no Government infrastructure stimulus and a low share of domestic tourists visiting the district.

While the trans-Tasman bubble date is uncertain, it’s unlikely a “do nothing” approach will be an option. From an attitudinal perspective, it’s just not in our psyche.

By contrast, Destination Queenstown’s domestic winter campaign research reads more positively, despite the circumstances. In a Visitor Demand Mapping for Queenstown report published earlier this month, figures (from Horizon Research) show that more than 1.22 million Kiwis plan to holiday domestically within the next 12 months, and of that an estimated 812,500 people want to visit the Queenstown region in that time.  

It’s safe to say that a “do nothing” approach won’t be an option. From an attitudinal perspective, it’s just not in our psyche.

But we all know that our district needs to diversify our economy, so we are not so reliant on tourism. This topic isn’t new to Wanaka – it formed the very basis of the Gigatown Wanaka campaign back in 2014. The Chamber, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, helped think of ways to diversify our economy through tech.

QLDC is launching an online “ideas portal” to allow locals to participate in the process of generating recovery ideas for the district. It will be great to see what comes out of that.

At a local level, agencies and organisations like Ignite Wanaka have been working really hard behind the scenes – collaborating to look out for our community’s welfare and wellbeing, to promote our region to NZ and to inform our business community about what’s going on from a local and central government level – as well as providing ways to upskill our local workforce through events and training.

Ignite is part of MahiQL, a collaboration between QLDC, employers, Chambers of Commerce and social agencies with the common goal to attract, retain and optimise our district’s talented workforce.

The road to recovery will be tough, and it will take time. We all need to work together to create a thriving and diverse economy not reliant on tourism.

Don’t forget to support local – everyone benefits from a thriving business community.

Celia Crosbie is the vice chair of Ignite Wanaka Chamber of Commerce and the managing director of Scope Media. To find out more about joining the Chamber, email or visit