Skyline Queenstown Reflects on 50 Years, Focusing on Future
Skyline Queenstown Reflects on 50 Years, Focusing on
Fifty years ago today, a bold new tourism venture began operating that would eventually become an iconic Queenstown visitor destination.
On Friday 17 November 1967, eight brightly-coloured Skyline Queenstown gondola cabins began ascending the cableway to Bob’s Peak and the then-Skyline Chalet, 450m above Queenstown.
Almost 1200 people rode New Zealand’s first gondola that day, to view the now-world-famous vista of The Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown below.
Fast-forward to 2017, and Skyline Queenstown’s gondola has been ridden 17 million times, the cableway itself has completed more than two million laps and 52% of all visitors to Queenstown board the gondola.
Skyline is preparing to upgrade its existing 30-year-old fleet of gondola cars with a state-of-the-art 10-seat gondola, brand new cableway, new base terminal and expansion of the Gondola complex, expected to open in 2020.
Skyline’s history is both humble and ambitious – a story of real No. 8 Wire Kiwi ingenuity. In 1966 founding pioneers Hylton Hensman, Jon Dumble and Cliff Broad decided to create better public access to the newly-built Skyline Chalet by constructing an aerial gondola up Bob’s Peak.
The road to opening day was long and not without challenges: Hylton single-handedly chopped down many of the pine trees to make way for the towers, there were major issues importing the gondola equipment from overseas and battles with the Queenstown Borough Council and Government were protracted and difficult.
Once open, however, it didn’t take long for the attraction to prove its worth and visitor numbers grew year on year. Skyline Queenstown has hosted famous faces over the years including Kiwi mountaineering legend Sir Edmund Hillary in 1969, former United States President Bill Clinton in 1999, and in recent years, visiting music superstars like Ed Sheeran and UB40.
Hensman, who also founded Skyline’s world-famous Luge 30 years ago, resigned as Skyline Enterprises chairman in 1976. He was replaced by Barry Thomas, who helped take the company to new heights – including expanding into global markets and diversifying into other tourism and property businesses.
Hensman’s son Grant, a current director of the board, attributes Skyline’s success to its dedicated staff over the past 50 years and a mutual commitment to new technology and innovation.
“The company owes a great deal, not just to the founders and the directors, but also to management and staff. The improvement of our products over the years is very much a collective effort and I would certainly like to acknowledge that,” Grant says.
Skyline’s milestone has been recognised by Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
TNZ chief executive Stephen England-Hall says: “As we congratulate Skyline Queenstown on providing world-class adventure for 50 years, we welcome the company’s ambitious expansion plans that will include one of the world’s most advanced gondolas, ensuring visitors continue to enjoy an exceptional and exhilarating experience long into the future.”
TIA chief executive Chris Roberts says: “Fifty years and still leading the way in providing world-class visitor experiences, continually updating its product offerings and not being content to rest on its laurels – what a fantastic achievement. Congratulations Skyline Queenstown. You are an inspirational example to New Zealand’s tourism industry.”
Community celebrations this Saturday
On November 18, 9am-6pm, Skyline will be hosting a Fifty Years of Fun locals’ day. All Queenstown residents who supply proof of address are entitled to half-price gondola and Luge packages. There will also be an impressive display of Skyline memorabilia from the past 50 years, as well as $1 birthday cake created by Skyline’s in-house pastry team.
For the entire month of November, locals can purchase a Gondola Annual Pass card at half price at $39.50 per adult, $29.50 per senior or child. Gondola Annual Pass cards entitle the holder to unlimited free gondola rides all year round, as well as exclusive discounts on all Skyline activities, products and restaurants.
About Skyline Queenstown
With 220-degree panoramic views spanning from Coronet Peak to the Remarkables mountain range and across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak and Cecil Peak, there is no better place to experience the beauty of Queenstown than Skyline Queenstown at the top of Bob’s Peak. Skyline Queenstown is a fun park for all ages and stages and all levels of adrenalin. Skyline Queenstown offers unforgettable family fun – whether it be luging, mountain biking, or walking as well as a range of dining and relaxing options amongst some of the world’s greatest scenery. For more information, please visit the Skyline Queenstown website.
About the Skyline Queenstown gondola development project
As the tourism company prepares to mark its 50th year of operation in 2017, Skyline’s development project involves: Replacing its existing four-seat gondola system with a quieter, more efficient 10-seat Doppelmayr gondola system; expanding the capacity of its restaurant, Stratosfare, from 330 seats to 650 in a flexible configuration for multiple dining options; expanding the panoramic viewing deck from 68sq m to 430sqm and almost doubling its capacity for conferences and events to cater for up to 1000 delegates in purpose-built facilities. The project is a $100 million development, driven by accommodating anticipated growth in visitor numbers to Queenstown over the next 30 years. For more information, please visit the Skyline Gondola development website.