The decline in tourism stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic could have a profound effect on New Zealand’s Queenstown Lakes District, Mayor Jim Boult warned.
“Literally in little over a month, we have gone from New Zealand’s most successful district, with a growing population and a growing GDP, to potentially one of the poorest districts in New Zealand,” Boult said in an address posted online.
The region is a draw to adrenaline junkies who travel to the area for its many outdoor and recreational activities, including bungee jumping. While most of the visitors to the Queenstown Lakes District come from overseas, about 36 percent are domestic visitors from New Zealand.
Now, however, the mayor is warning the unemployment rate could reach 25 or 30 percent.
“We have a massive task before us. It is a task that we must undertake together,” Boult said. “The time for squabbles over matters that are no longer relevant is gone. For a very long period of time, growth will cease to be a subject for discussion and instead our mantra will be survival.”
New Zealand is set to loosen some of its COVID-inspired restrictions, including moving from a Level 4 lockdown to a Level 3 lockdown. But, as the country, and the world, returns to some level of normalcy in the wake of COVID-19, it appears the tourism industry could have a slow return.
“Our community is very much based on the tourism economy,” Boult said. “Many in our community, and I count myself as one of those, look to a future where we are no longer so dependent on tourism. We must diversify our economy. We must also consider the negative side of global tourism and the concern for the effects of mass tourism on our communities and our environment. In the future, we must do things differently.
“…These are difficult times for all of us, some more so than others,” Boult added. “I say again that recovery from the ground zero position in which we currently find ourselves, requires the combined and concentrated effort of us all. I look forward to working with you to see our district return to prosperity.”