Snowfall bodes well for ski season and school holidays in Mackenzie

With more wintry weather looming down south, more snow en route to the High Country and international tourists once again venturing across borders, Mackenzie businesses were preparing for a busy winter on the eve of the holidays. July schools.

The MetService issued a Sunday morning heavy snow watch for the Canterbury High Country from Tuesday, saying rain is expected to fall as snow up to 400 yards, with “warning amounts of snow possible above of 600m”.

The snow closed roads, shuttered schools and even caused power outages as it blanketed parts of the region on Thursday.

However, winters have been the bright spot in an otherwise bleak tourist market, with domestic visitors offering ski areas with bumper seasons in 2020 and 2021, and Mackenzie operators say there is already buzz in the air and strong reservations.

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Tekapo Springs sales and marketing manager Andy Murray said even before the school holidays, which begin in New Zealand on Monday, all indicators point to a strong winter.

“Accommodation providers in town were saying they were full. The ski areas are reporting excellent snow, and all is going well, we are looking forward to a really positive school holiday.”

He said that despite a positive forecast, he expected some uncertainty with the spike in the number of Covid-19 cases and flu cases.

But he said the return of Australian visitors had already provided a significant boost in numbers, describing it as “humiliating and encouraging”.

Looking towards the Ben Ōhau Range in the Mackenzie on Sunday.  A heavy snow watch is in place for the Canterbury High Country from Tuesday.

George Empson / Stuff

Looking towards the Ben Ōhau Range in the Mackenzie on Sunday. A heavy snow watch is in place for the Canterbury High Country from Tuesday.

“Australians are delighted to be here. They are mainly from New South Wales, then Victoria, then Queensland.

“It sounds really encouraging. Just before the end of June, around 15% of our online sales came from Australia, five days later it had risen to 20%.”

He said that while that didn’t sound like a lot – ”it’s quite significant for online sales – 20% of sales coming from Australia so early in the article”.

“In terms of market rebound, it’s really encouraging.

“Until the weather is completely pear-shaped, thanks to this solid week of preparation, I think it will be a very good period of school holidays, supported by the ski season.

But Murray said, like many other businesses, the combination of a nationwide labor shortage and staff illness is stretching them.

He said they will have to manage customer expectations and use strategies such as online booking to avoid the worst, but he said finding staff was becoming increasingly difficult.

Tekapo Springs marketing director Andy Murray said things were looking good with the return of international tourists, but staff shortages were putting pressure on businesses.

Alden Williams / Stuff

Tekapo Springs marketing director Andy Murray said things were looking good with the return of international tourists, but staff shortages were putting pressure on businesses.

Murray said the company “strives to” pay the living wage, but the competition is fierce and “everyone wants the same kind of staff.”

“[Recruiting] is a challenge, but I think it’s going to make companies really think about their work culture and other niceties you can offer to attract people.”

He said that at Tekapo Springs, staff are offered ski passes and other rewards.

He said part of the problem is going from “famine to feast, like a light switch”, in which a sector that has been as badly hit by the pandemic as tourism needs to pick up again very quickly.

“I just hope that our government will simplify immigration requirements as much as possible to allow for a little more transparent recruitment from abroad.

“There are discussions at the moment of similar businesses such as hotels and other major operators in the region joining forces to collaborate on recruitment campaigns and saying, we are a great region to come, there is great business opportunities, and it’s also about having that work/life/play balance – we really try to promote that.

Lockie and Caroline Broadfoot purchased the Silverstream Hotel from Kimbell in April 2020 and are planning an even busier winter for their first season with open borders.  (File photo)

John Bisset / Stuff

Lockie and Caroline Broadfoot purchased the Silverstream Hotel from Kimbell in April 2020 and are planning an even busier winter for their first season with open borders. (File photo)

“We want to make work fun and by the way, in your free time you could ski, you could fish, you could mountain bike.”

Silverstream Hotel owner Lockie Broadfoot and his wife Caro bought the Silverstream Hotel in Kimbell in April 2020, moving into it in May after the lockdown.

He said they were looking forward to another busy season.

There has been “a huge influx of people into the area” over the past two winters, but as the couple only took over the historic pub in the early months of the pandemic, they have yet to experience a ” normal winter.

He said that although they don’t offer accommodations, “the Mt Dobson motel next door told me they have excellent advance reservations, and that’s what we’re also hearing from all Tekapo operators”.

Broadfoot said last week’s snowfall boded well for the start of the school holidays.

“I think the weather ahead was a bit difficult for people trying to cross, but it left a lot of snow on the mountains, so we’re all very excited for what lies ahead.”

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