covid free

Editorial

The end of the pandemic is nigh, bring on the recovery!!

March 7 2022 by David Gibbs

The end of the pandemic is nigh, bring on the recovery!!

Talk to friends overseas and you find they’re surprised we’re still obsessing over Covid. The rest of the world has moved on and are living their lives pretty much ‘normally’ (ignoring the possibility of a nuclear Armageddon). It’s now time for us to move on as well. Omicron is working its way through our community, with 1200-plus cases, but fortunately very few people seem to be seriously sick or in hospital. That’s a good sign and it seems we’re reaching the end of this pandemic. If things keep tracking as they are, from a health perspective the town and country has got off very lightly indeed.

The same can’t be said for Queenstown Lakes’ businesses, however. They are still in a world of pain. A recovery of sorts is on the horizon. The need for self-isolation for travellers has been removed and the Government has hinted strongly that the dates when international visitors to return will be brought forward. Hopefully, we’ll see Australians back before the ski season. With Australian borders open both ways, NZ needs to reopen as soon as it feasibly can, so tourists don’t book holidays elsewhere, Kiwis included.

But a full recovery from Covid will take longer, which might have at least one silver lining - because we’re not ready to welcome the whole world just yet, especially well-heeled travellers who expect top-notch customer service. Queenstown doesn’t have the workforce to deal with a sudden influx. Whole sectors are working on skeleton staff, think accommodation, everything airport, transport, food and beverage, retail as well as tours and activities. And with unemployment at 2.7%, or more positively, an incredible high employment rate of 97.3%, anyone who finds staff is just taking them from some other business.

The obvious solution is to bring in workers from overseas but the Government signalled, before Covid, it intends to limit immigration to provide opportunities and better wages for Kiwis. Coupled with its push to make the sector more sustainable, the tap might not be fully opened again soon, if at all. That’s despite the fact it’s almost impossible to build your team and even harder to retain them in the current circumstances. Worse, Kiwis can now travel, so there is a serious risk of losing key staff overseas. The immigration minister is missing, not in action, which is not a good sign.

But, see, I’m back to talking about immigration levels and staffing. Nothing to do with coronavirus. Soon it will be traffic, overcrowding, drinking on the beach, roadside poos and the battle for downtown premises with so many giftshops popping up everywhere. This difficult chapter of our history is about to close, we can put it behind us and not look back.

Bring it on!!

David Gibbs
Queenstown Media Group


- David Gibbs