Bookings boom for Queenstown

4 minutes read
Posted 28 June, 2023
02 v10

Leading Australian ski package wholesalers say Queenstown Lakes is in for a “record breaker” ski season with the influx of Aussies this winter, with one reporting double the bookings compared with 2019.

Yield is up significantly too with customers spending almost 40 percent more on their ski holiday than in 2019.

Mountain Watch Travel Managing Director Quentin Nolan estimates at least 30,000 to 40,000 Aussies are heading to Queenstown this winter on ski holidays, up 15 to 20 percent compared with 2019.

Sno’n’Ski Holidays Managing Director Dan Walker says his company alone is bringing well over $A5million into Queenstown with about 3500 guests booked.

Both say they would be bringing more if there was accommodation available. “We’re limited by accommodation,” Nolan says.

It’s incredibly hard to find accommodation for combo holiday packages during the week of his company’s destination Snow Machine Festival in September. The festival will see two stages set up on Coronet Peak and The Remarkables with another downtown. “It’s the biggest snow event in New Zealand right now.” Nolan is also discussing with QLDC the possibility of another downtown stage to hold some free community events.

Walker says Sno’n’Ski Holidays has seen “a NZ sales boom” for 2023.

“More importantly they’re spending more money” Walker says. While Australian passenger numbers are down 13 percent on 2019, customers are spending 37 percent more, with the average spend around $1600 covering a seven-night Queenstown skiing holiday.

“We’re really hoping Air New Zealand reinstates the Brisbane-Queenstown direct services,” he says. “A daily service would add another 170 seats a day.” There’s been strong demand for Virgin Australia and Qantas on the Brisbane - Queenstown direct services.

Despite increased airfares which are up about 30 percent compared with pre-Covid, we’re still seen as great value with Canada costing $AUD4000 just in airfares. “Even at $A900, we’re telling people if they see that price to book it.” The exchange rate is still favourable for Aussies too.

Australians remain the largest single market for the NZ tourism industry as a whole. They spent $1 billion in the first quarter of 2023, followed by USA visitors ($518m) and UK visitors ($383m).

According to the latest estimates, around 300,000 Aussies are expected to fly into New Zealand this winter. That’s 90 percent of pre-Covid levels (345,000 in 2019).

While customers are being advised to pre-book activities and restaurants before they travel, Walker says they’re more concerned about potential traffic problems now that NZSki has discontinued its hotel pickups.

“This has resulted in a huge spike in car hire bookings,” he says. “We’re concerned about the traffic in Queenstown, as part of the overall guest experience. However, local suppliers made it work last year with very positive feedback overall, so I’m sure they’ll do it again.”

New Zealand attracts the 3-4 star market, choosing to save money and stay ‘local’ again this year. “Queenstown’s fitting the budget,” he says.

The numbers heading to Japan this winter are also “mind blowing.”

New Zealand’s gain is a loss for Australia with operators experiencing a significant decrease in domestic visitors to the Australian ski fields.

“A day skiing at Perisher costs $220 whereas, while Earlybird deals at NZSki, Cardrona and Treble Cone got the daily cost down to $99,” says Nolan.

Accommodation is the big sticking point for Queenstown, they say. “The July (Australian and NZ) school holidays have been mostly booked for about three months and August is also getting difficult,” he says.

Novotel Queenstown Lakeside general manager Jim Moore says he’s expecting to be “close to full” for peak dates. “I don’t believe we’re full on any dates yet, but we expect to be. Late June, July and into August we expect to be extremely busy.” Bookings so far are “very solid”, up five to ten percent on last year.

Rees Hotel CEO Mark Rose says school holidays are on the full side, but not completely, and will be “incredibly busy”. “It’s no busier than 2019, but definitely a higher yield.”

The Australian market is the hotels largest market in all but one month this year.

NZSki CEO Paul Anderson says bookings are well up and people should get in super early if they want a car park during the school holiday periods and on fresh powder, bluebird days. Anderson is urging guests to be prepared and book rentals in advance with such a busy season ahead.

An online booking system has been introduced for NZSki buses rather than a first in, first served basis. “We had some reasonably sizeable queues last year.”


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