Hospitality Business Magazine

Glimmer of hope for cancelled Queenstown festival

It would take a lot to replace the economic injection of the internationally-renowned Queenstown Winter Festival – Queenstown’s winter launch part of the year, but there’s a glimmer of hope with the possibility of a much smaller spring event.

The iconic festival has been running for 45 years and always heralds the start of the winter ski season. This month would’ve marked the 46th. However, this year’s festival had to be cancelled back in March, due to the Covid-19 crisis.

It’s early days yet but festival director Harald Ulriksen says they’re hoping that a smaller, possibly two-day, festival event could be on the cards for Queenstown in spring, nearer the end of the ski season.

The idea is very much in its infancy but there’s potential for a destination driven event maybe in September, he says. “It would be something to rekindle the spirits of the town and to work with and support local businesses,” says Harald. There’s been a lot of eagerness to pull such an event together.

A shorter four-day Winter Festival format was introduced in 2017, replacing the traditional 10-day celebration, and as always the hilarity of the annual fiercely-fought Hospitality Race was to have been a highlight again this year. Organisers even had plans to extend the race.

Almost 57,000 people attended the 2019 festival, which injected almost $10 million into the local economy. It’s a huge boost at an otherwise quieter time for restaurants, bars, cafes, accommodation providers and all hospitality operators.

Destination Queenstown acting chief executive Ann Lockhart says they had to take a pragmatic approach back in March and unfortunately make the difficult decision to cancel the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival for 2020. “While this is disappointing it is appropriate given the uncertainty we are currently facing,” she said at the time.  “We did consider postponing the festival, but it would be almost impossible to pick a date which we could confidently confirm.”

Ann and the team are expecting that the festival will be back bigger and brighter in 2021.