ZQN 4 July 2015 Busiest Intl Day

Editorial

How do we ‘build back better’?

August 9 2021 by Paul Taylor

How do we ‘build back better’?

Imagine a future where the whole Queenstown Lakes community welcomes tourists as enthusiastically as business owners do.

That certainly wasn’t the case pre-Covid, when about 3.3 million international and domestic visitors came to the district each year. You couldn’t move for Fergburger munching, rental car crashing, bush pooing, beach drinking rabble, and that was just the ones on business trips. International visitors outnumbered ratepayers 34 to 1 on peak days. So, it was no surprise to anyone, other than perhaps the head honcho’s at the airport, when pretty much all of us said ‘ha-ha, wait, you’re joking right?’ to plans for airport expansion and 81% of us resounding ‘yep’ to mayor Jim Boult’s bed tax plans.

Scary Greek letter variants withstanding, when the borders reopen what’s going to make the 40,000 of us super-happy to see pre-Covid numbers of visitors, and the pressure they put on the infrastructure we pay for, on housing through Airbnb etc., and the rest.
Regenerative tourism, the idea we use the tourism industry to improve our lives and the environment rather than degrade them, seems like a real move towards a solution. Destination Queenstown, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Lake Wānaka Tourism are working on a road map to regenerative tourism in the district by 2030, on Tourism Minister Stuart Nash’s ‘build back better’ orders.

Hundreds of Queenstown Lakes residents took their chance to contribute at workshops last week. We’re at the drawing board stage, so anything goes. It could be that to be truly regenerative we need to limit numbers, or introduce permits, or local visitor levies. It could be that businesses are asked to pay the living wage or do more of the ancillary projects they already bring to the table, such as conservation and charity work, school programmes, and extra staff training. It’s probably not what many cash-strapped business owners want to hear at the moment, ‘we need more from you’, but this is planning for when tills are ringing again.

Here are my whiteboard suggestions, a little more focused on fun, than the serious structural stuff that needs to happen.

Locals’ weekend, every weekend: A good way to reduce the cost of living and spread the love would be for businesses to take it in turns to do a locals’ weekend. Usually half price, it would build the bond between residents and businesses.

A proper locals’ card: There are only 40,000 of us. Give us some guaranteed discounts, once you’re back on your feet. Queenstown tops the charts for visitor spend per resident, at a whopping $73,854 according to Tourism NZ research.

Suburban ski bus: I want to get the ski bus up to Coronet Peak to take my kids to Little Rippers. I don’t want to drive into town from Lake Hayes and park to do so. Bookable return buses from near our homes would be awesome, NZSki.

What are your suggestions?

Paul Taylor - editor

- Paul Taylor