The Eye of the Fish

May 6, 2020

To Tourist or Not To Tourist?

Wellington’s lucky in this respect I guess: although we have many tourists (usually), we have a few other strings to our bow, so to speak. We have a University or two, or three, we have a major regional hospital, we have a flourishing port that will probably survive the loss of cruise ships, we have (or had) several musical / concert / opera venues / theatres (but no Convention Centre !) and so we will survive. Oh yes – and we have a parliament that is also based here, and employs about half the city’s workers. So maybe we will be OK without too many tourists.

Not so other cities though. Queenstown is the one that has really been in the news lately. This little gif that I made late last year shows the problem quite well really – how prescient of me. I was sitting there enjoying the hospitality, noting how few kiwis were there – the owner of the bar was French, the bar staff that served me were Spanish, and the tourists flocking by in huge clumps were all seemingly either Chinese or Indian. That was in November – so probably not the snow crowd that would normally flock there in June-September, who I guess might be more of an Aussie crowd? I dunno. But it seemed obvious to me even back then that the tourism of Queenstown had turned what was formerly a lovely wee town into a bit of an ugly mess.

Napier is another one that will feel the pain quite hard. The huge success of the Art Deco Trust in bringing the small town to the world’s attention means that it gets as many cruise liners as Wellington each year, and makes it a much more pleasant event for the passengers that arrive there. Instead of bussing the tourists into town past a million logs like we do in Wellington, Napier greets the cruise liners with a series of Art Deco era cars that congregate down at the port, and they are orchestrated by a local imp playing the part of Bertie, a jolly Woosteresque figure in a tiny 1930s baby Austin. What ho chaps! The loss of the tourism industry will hit the Hawkes Bay quite hard I think… if only for a few weeks of peak summer I guess.

So… the mean time we all, collectively, are going to have to have a couple of years without the added input of tourists. How do we do that? How do we make the city work with less tourists as it has when overloaded with fat waddling Americans?

7 - 05 - 20

Queenstown’s model of mass market tourism is dead for the next few years,

On the plus side it will make going through the airport down there a much more enjoyable experience, and in reality they should use the breathing space to get their airport master plan organised so that are ready to commit to funding it when things start to recover.

Getting Australians back before the end of the year will help a bit,

But it will be a great opportunity for NZers to get out and see large chunks of the country the we often avoid in the Tourism season
.. as they say “don’t leave home ’til you’ve seen the country”

7 - 05 - 20

greenwelly – only if the operators see fit to lower their prices for the domestic markets. If so, I’m definitely in!

8 - 05 - 20

@m-d , well it’s not like they really have much choice if they want kiwi customers , who for a while are going to be the only ones around for a while…

8 - 05 - 20

It’s not just the prices though – its the activities themselves. Everyone should go on a Shotover Jetboat ride once in their life – but probably no-one would go twice, especially at the price. Fortunately, i guess, that option has been taken out of the choices you have to make – the Shotover Jet has been closed down, shuttered for a year or two, if not for good.

Queenstown was chock full of foreign tourists – to the extent that I didn’t really feel like I belonged there – so I welcome a more demure and less plastic experience. It will be ski season there soon – again, another experience that will be more enjoyable with less people – and I presume that they won’t shut down the mountains. It could be the best year ever for ski fans.

Personally, I’d quite like to do the Coastal Express rail trip, to see the work done along the edge of the Kaikouras.

8 - 05 - 20

Levi, the Coastal Pacific is definitely worth it! It was well worth it before the earthquake, and now it’s even more interesting.

But, with Kiwi customers likely to be the only ones around for some time, businesses that have grown on the basis of high-paying overseas visitors may find that there isn’t enough of a dollar to be made without them.

For businesses that do continue, the recovery of fixed costs will be spread over fewer people, so the cost per head will be higher. How any business reflects in the price per head remains to be seen: they may not shut down access the mountains, but they may make it harder or more expensive to get up them.

Henry Filth
12 - 05 - 20

Well if the overseas tourists are gone, where’s the money goin’ to come from?

12 - 05 - 20

Henry – i think there is going to be a lot less money going around….