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There’s No Business Like Snow Business

By Nina Jensen

Kiwi ski resorts are celebrating a bumper winter season as the school holidays come to an end.

Snow field company NZSki which operates three resorts  –  The Remarkables and Coronet Peak in Queenstown and Mt Hutt near Christchurch – said  it had enjoyed record visitor numbers on the slopes. Takings were also up at hotels and shops downtown.

Trojan Holdings, the company behind NZSki and chaired by Sir John Davies, has invested $45m into The Remarkables alone over the last two years.

Improvements include the new base building which opened this year, the new Curvey Basin lift which opened in 2014, new trails, better infrastructure and a state-of-the-art snowmaking machine to boost the reliability of the resort.

The investment adds to the bigger overall investment plan, which has seen multi-million-dollar investments made at Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt over the past decade or more.

The ski industry in New Zealand, which is made up of 23 ski areas in all, sees around 1.4 million guest visits in any one year. This annual figure is largely dependent on snow conditions, with a good season bringing up to 1.6 million visitors

NZSki’s marketing director Craig Douglas said: “Skiing is becoming a lot more appealing to families and there is incredible potential to expand this sort of business. Our greatest opportunity is to encourage more visitors from overseas, particularly from Australia.

NZSki’s three ski areas Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt account for over one third of the total ski area visits and around 40 per cent of its revenue.

“Our rivals are still north America, and Japan, especially as there are new flights to Japan from the east coast of Australia,” said Douglas.

“But we are investing to give people the sort of experience they would expect if they had a holiday in one of the European ski resorts and it is paying off. We have spent a lot of time and money in getting the product right and our focus is on the family holiday.

“We have runs for novice and skiers as well as experienced sports people who are after bigger challenges.”

Research by Statistics New Zealand and Tourism NZ, have shown that ski operator revenues from overseas visitors, can be multiplied by 10 in relation to how much they spend on travel, accommodation and retail goods.

This direct and indirect spend makes the ski industry worth around $1.4 billion to the New Zealand economy each year

Ski resort business has been boosted by flights into Queenstown Airport  which have increased. Trans-Tasman flights up 13 percent for this winter, on top of a 25 per cent increase last winter.

A record 59 direct flights are expected to arrive from East Coast Australia on average per week during peak winter months, which is seven more per week than last year.  This compares to five flights per week arriving at peak in 2002.

Air New Zealand is increasing its domestic services to Queenstown this coming year, adding more than 140,000 extra domestic seats into and out of Queenstown compared with the previous 12 month period

Evening flights are also likely to also begin from winter 2016, which is expected to provide a further boost to tourism numbers alongside an improved airport experience and increased flexibility for visitors to Queenstown

Douglas added: “The convenience and timing of flights is crucial, particularly as we are trying to attract families from overseas.

“Ski is a significant driver of Australian leisure visits over winter throughout the country. That is the rationale behind Tourism NZ’s $1.4m annual campaign investment.”

Source: Sunday Star Times

July 2015

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