The Tourism Slow-Down

February 4 2019 by David Gibbs

The Tourism Slow-Down. There was confirmation last week that the tectonic growth in tourism numbers into New Zealand might be slowing. The Air NZ quarterly update forecasted a softening inbound demand, with Chinese arrival numbers in November down 4%. It’s hardly surprising; the very unstable political and economic environments in countries around the world is sure to have a knock-on effect. China, one of New Zealand’s biggest tourism markets, was the obvious one with a trade war underway which is slowing their domestic economy and in turn may be having an impact on outbound tourism from China.

While Air New Zealand has confirmed this trend last week in its profit outlook, the news is not new to a number of businesses in Queenstown who track growth closely. Anecdotally, some businesses found last winter quieter and certainly the shoulder season was more pronounced than the previous year. A slowdown in growth is a good thing in my view. It may provide a breather that I think is sorely needed – an opportunity for Queenstown to get back on track. This summer it has been really difficult for many businesses to find staff. Immigration NZ is slow to process visas and this is having a real impact on businesses’ ability to retain staff. This in turn means that some businesses can’t operate as they normally would, with some putting staff on double shifts, limiting their services or limiting their opening hours. All this means is that the product we deliver to visitors is not as good as it should be and that ultimately isn’t sustainable.

A couple of years of no growth wouldn’t be bad thing. We still have a large number of tourists visiting for a comparatively low number of permanent residents. A reprieve in growth would give the town an opportunity to plan and learn to manage the tourist numbers we currently get. It would give Queenstown time to complete some of those bigger projects and it’d be great for locals as it will allow for better traffic flow and easier parking. Immigration NZ could get their processes back up to a reasonable speed (I’m not holding my breath though). Business may be able to get the right amount of staff they need. Perhaps there will be less demand on accommodation and the staff can find somewhere to live at a reasonable cost. Perhaps there will be more ‘local’ deals. We like that!

All in all, I welcome a slowdown in tourist growth in Queenstown. It has felt as though growth, while always welcome, was not able to continue at the recent pace in a sustainable way. Perhaps the fact that some of our most popular inbound tourist countries are having uncertain domestic times, and their populations are not travelling to New Zealand as much, is a blessing in disguise. I know Air NZ might not like it but I do!

David Gibbs
Commercial Operations Manager

- David Gibbs
Please note that care must be taken with the wording of comments. Where possible, avoid negative references to specific businesses or individuals. The Lakes Weekly Bulletin reserves the right to edit or withhold comments. Comments may be reproduced in the printed edition of LWB.

Post your comment


  • Jimmynoshoes

    your blaming immigration NZ for QTs problems? Wow, must have missed the last election. Queenstown needs to understand if you want to run a business you are going to have start attracting kiwis - which it has neglected for years, and stop this 'they don't want to work here attitude' - it was fine argument when we were a tiny town but the growth in last 5 years means you simply won't be able to run it off immigrants any longer. QT has got to stop blaming everyone else for its problems, we are not a special case. Just have a think about this phrase you used 'immigration NZ needs to hurry up so we can run our businesses'.

    Also elaborate on this 'sustainable growth you speak of' iv never seen sustainable growth in this region. It's all done haphazardly with the view that public infrastructure needs to catch up to private needs. Jim has just come out and said this in regards to LTNZ fixing ladies mile. $22m of public money was spent on a 2 lane bridge which has done pretty much nothing due to ongoing growth.

    Realistically, kmart ect should never have been allowed to go ahead. 50 low paid jobs - including all the other box stores - and for what exactly? money to be siphoned out of the area to large corporates. I'm not sure tourists were coming to shop at k mart, but to get away from cities and into nature. So yes id expect a lot less tourists, and not stagnant but declining numbers. Airport was suggesting 5.1 million passengers by 2030 apparently?, good luck.

    Air New Zealand's change in forecast was for me a little surprising, I was expecting maybe 12 months before this happened, but that it would is no surprise. And if we turn to tourism itself, the IPCC has told us to half carbon emissions by 2030 to have some chance of a liveable world. How many people will be able to rationalise travelling halfway across the planet as we approach 1.5C of warming and beyond?. We need to try to understand the world we now live in, not one where 'growth' is the measure of how a society is performing.

    Posted 04/02/2019 5:19pm (6 months ago)


    It will be interesting to see if commercial rents take a drop....heres my bet ....NOOOOOOOOO

    Posted 04/02/2019 6:29pm (6 months ago)

  • Daniel

    A tectonic growth in tourism? Is that when we have so many tourists the earth moves?

    Posted 06/02/2019 2:16pm (6 months ago)

  • Fair& Square

    Perhaps the Air New Zealand CEO is doing the old corporate smoke and mirrors excuse, of its everyone's else fault the business is under performing , so I should still get my big fat bonus?

    Posted 07/02/2019 1:55pm (5 months ago)

  • TimJ

    'Couple years no growth wouldn't be a bad thing' he remarks flippantly, then we can go back to the good times of horrendous growth that we will be unprepared for lol. Operations managers...

    Posted 07/02/2019 4:22pm (5 months ago)

  • Free Me

    .No doubt as word spreads Internationally among the worlds travelling free loaders on the New Zealand's Governments magnificence with the concurrence of local councils on providing and improving complimentary freedom camping facilities at tax and ratepayers expense,we will be able to count on unprecedented growth from this market segment.

    Posted 07/02/2019 4:51pm (5 months ago)

  • End of Qt

    In turn may be having an impact on outbound tourism? Thats a HUGE claim you make because if your right (yet no evidence given) then perhaps this is reason for a slowdown. However if you wrong then the Chinese are skipping NZ now due to the coverage of state of the rivers, and that the 100% pure NZ was a myth and propaganda to promote tourism $? Might need to validate this claim you make? Because if the latter is true Queenstown is in major trouble. Who could have possibly predicted this?

    Iv also anecdotally been hearing that people are using Qt as a way point and staying for a day rather than several. Hence we keep hearing tourism numbers hitting records but as this summer has shown its a lot quieter. A Much more valid claim.


    Posted 07/02/2019 7:19pm (5 months ago)

  • End of Qt

    And this is what I mean. "Flight bookings from China jumped 24 per cent between 30 January and 12 February as an increasing number of visitors choose to spend Chinese New Year in the UK, according to tourism agency Visit Britain"


    Posted 07/02/2019 7:26pm (5 months ago)

  • Daniel

    The Chinese are going to stop coming to NZ because their Government is instructing them to - via tourism warnings about NZ's safety (which is actually a smoke screen for wider issues). There is huge diplomatic posturing going on behind the scenes over the Huawei Corporations rejection as Sparks 5G supplier due to their spying issues, the "paperwork" issue that led to an Air NZ jet being turned back half way to China which was actually over Air NZ's use of the forbidden "Taiwan" word, the Chinese Governments postponement of a joint China/NZ Year of Tourism promotion, Jacinda Aderns "delay" in her going to China, and so many other points.
    The Chinese market is going to collapse very very soon - anyone remember the Japanese market collapse of a decade ago? this will be far quicker.

    Posted 17/02/2019 4:03pm (5 months ago)

  • Point and Post

    The bigger concern is that the international mobile work force that we rely on will find an other place to work and play in.What then, will we New Zealanders have to work for a living and have to be paid and housed accordingly. Shock,horror

    Posted 27/02/2019 8:23am (5 months ago)