Work is underway for Queenstown Lakes District software and technology companies to collaborate with local hospitality and tourism businesses to form a technology cluster.

The work, funded by the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s economic development department, is designed to bring about greater efficiencies by sharing experience and knowledge.

Kevin Sharpe.

Local Queenstown business leader Kevin Sharpe, a former executive director of the Wayfare Group which includes Real Journeys, has been appointed to lead development of the cluster throughout the district. The aim is to bring together similar businesses to identify opportunities to collaborate.

“There are a number of different businesses looking at spending money on technology all in the same areas,” says Kevin, who has been charged with investigating the feasibility.

District council economic development manager Peter Harris says cluster development will support technology businesses, and potentially boost the productivity of the tourism and hospitality industry.

“Rather than all individually trying to overcome the same issues, we want to support businesses to join forces,” he says. “Essentially, turning competitors into collaborators.”  

Cluster development is all about building trust amongst businesses, he says.

Local software and technology companies have been keen to get on board with Kevin already scoping potential among more than 10 companies and talking with dozens of operators.

The Queenstown Lakes District has some well-known hospitality-technology and tourism-technology software companies, including Magic Memories, Wherewolf, First Table and Loaded Reports.

Kevin will be gathering information and feedback from operators on what kinds of technology advancements they’re working on. “If they’re all doing the same work in 10 different places then it makes sense to work together collaboratively for the region and save money,” he says.

It’s a system that Kevin says has worked well in other centres, but is thought to be relatively new to New Zealand. “It’s about rethinking and customising technology.”

His job is to listen, look for opportunities and ascertain if the idea is feasible and has enough traction locally.

Research shows that economic diversification often comes from expertise built off the dominant industry, says Peter.

“Over time entrepreneurs have picked up on challenges the tourism and hospitality industries face and have created software to solve them. They’ve gone from selling locally to selling to the world.”

“Tech in this area offers us a chance to bottle up and sell our expertise in hosting people to the world,” says Kevin. “Not only that, but as local tourism and hospo businesses take up this tech they will streamline their business, making them more productive,” he says.

Mat Weir, Chief Executive Officer of First Table, says he’s already collaborating in a small way with some other local software companies, but with Kevin on board the potential to do more is really exciting.

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