Trish May, Skålleague of the Month - October'21
Skålleague of the Month - October'21
President Skål International Queenstown, New Zealand
Since Covid-19 emerged around the globe, so many in our industry are going through incredibly difficult times.
Keeping a sense of empathy stoked with an air of positivity have helped members of Skål International Queenstown navigate the adversities of the pandemic.
It came as a brutal shock when international visitors completely evaporated, when on 19th March 2020, the New Zealand Government closed the borders. Soon after the entire country went into a hard lockdown for seven weeks.
Tourism is the lifeblood of Queenstown, a resort town in the south of the South Island which attracts almost every international visitor. Tourism accounts for 64% of all jobs. Annual average tourism GDP growth in Queenstown regularly outstrips the national figures. Our members are dependent on visitors, but there were none!
As with most organisations and businesses we reverted to Zoom meetings. During those regular online gatherings, we discussed business closures, downsizings, and wave after wave of job losses amongst our members, friends, and colleagues. It was a heart-breaking time.
A key development during the year was the introduction of a coffee ‘chit-chat’. The ‘chit -chat’ gave members a forum to talk, be heard and be supported by each other. The gatherings are only for one hour, to discuss ‘topics of the moment’ – there was certainly plenty of material for discussion!
Engaging with Politicians
Amidst the pandemic New Zealand held a General Election in September 2020 and this ushered in a new Member of Parliament representing Queenstown. We invited the newly minted MP to speak at a club event in December where he learned about the frustrations that members were facing.
This connection we made with the MP’s office resulted three subsequent meetings with other Members of Parliament during 2021, representing the tourism and immigration shadow portfolios. Whilst these politicians are currently in Opposition, they are advocating on behalf of the industry and trying to keep the Government accountable throughout the pandemic.
Mix of Events
Club events can be over breakfast, lunch, or an after-work cocktail event. Key to the success of these gatherings are interesting guest speakers. Our most successful events of this nature featured the CEO of the local ski areas speaking about the forthcoming ski season. Another was with Ian Yeoman, a professional crystal ball gazer or futurologist specializing in travel and tourism. Ian is also the NZ National Vice President of Skål International. We also enjoyed an update from the Communications Manager of our national tourism association, Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
Sadly, this pandemic is not yet over. For a few months a quarantine-free travel ‘bubble’ operated between Australia and New Zealand. However, in late August 2021 New Zealand was plunged back into a hard lockdown due to Covid being present in the community. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, remains in hard lockdown with no travel permitted in or out of Auckland. The origin market for Queenstown growing (alternative) domestic market has also evaporated, for the time being.