Frontline legend – Fae Robertson retires

2 minutes read
Posted 3 May, 2024
fae photo copy

Fae on the job back in the NZTP days

She’s been the bright and shining frontline star of Queenstown’s tourism industry for 65 years, greeting visitors from around the world with her unique effervescence and style.

There’s never a bad day when Queenstown’s most treasured travel consultant Fae Robertson’s around – rained out Milford flights, snow closed roads, or not.

Fae, 80, retires from the i-Site Visitor Centre in the Clock Tower building on May 5, after first starting an apprenticeship in the job, aged 15 in 1958, for the then Government Tourist Bureau.

In those days she worked in the old Railways office on what is now Steamer Wharf. “I’d have a phone on each shoulder with people on hold all over New Zealand, while I rang the hotels and motels to book them.”

Apart from a few years working part-time while her kids were small, Fae’s been at it ever since, selling everything from lake launch rides on The Muritai and Moana, to Earnslaw cruises to Kinloch and Routeburn morning teas. Farmers would line up too, wanting to book cattle on the Earnslaw to Glenorchy. “There was very little sightseeing back then,” she recalls. “There was one jetboat on the lake.”

Fresh out of school with a strict Catholic upbringing, Mum’s rules were ‘no nylons’, so Fae would climb the stile in Gorge Road on her way home from work and sneak her white sockets back on.

It was a culture shock at times. “A wee lavender lace lady in a dress hat, and gloves carrying a handbag came to book two rooms in Milford but there was only one double available,” Fae says. “She said, ‘Oh, that’s fine. We’re friends, Darling.’ My face must’ve been a picture as I was a good Catholic child and so shocked,” Fae laughs. “I didn’t tell Mum about that one.”

“In the early days we did 10-hour days with four days off.”

When the office became NZTP Travel (New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department), Fae’s public speaking strengths saw her sent to Melbourne to sell NZ to the Aussies for six weeks, accommodated at the High Commissioner’s home.

When private i-Site owners took over she and others were made redundant, but within two weeks they’d called Fae back to train the other staff.

Trained in body language to help with her 31 years volunteering for Victim Support, Fae can get even the surliest early morning grump to crack a smile, like the man who wanted a trip to Milford. “It was really uncomfortable, so I said, ‘Would you like to fly? We have some nice choices. An aircraft with or without an engine? It still flies quite well. Do you want to sit outside? It’s autumn so that’s weather dependent,’” Fae chuckles. “You don’t want to start the day with a grump.” That man came back several times during his stay to book trips through Fae.


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