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Unprecedented events keep Queenstown hoteliers guessing

28 March 2012

A year of unprecedented events keeps Queenstown hoteliers guessing

A major international sporting event, natural disasters and changes in the way people book travel all had an impact on Queenstown hotels in 2011.

Speaking at NZ Hotel Council’s 2011 Annual Operating Survey presentation in Queenstown this afternoon, NZHC Executive Officer Rachael Shadbolt said 2011 was an unusual year. Any one of the events 2011 presented to the sector would have had a marked impact, but to have a Rugby World Cup, a series of earthquakes and a significant shift in the way people booked travel take place in the one year was unprecedented.

In 2011 Queenstown’s 20 NZHC members:

• had a 59.5% occupancy rate, down 9.9 points compared to 2010 (69.4%)
• achieved the fourth highest average room rate (ARR) of the eight NZHC regions at $145.90, up $12.60 on 2010 ($133.30)
• generated over $108m in revenue, up $4m on 2010 from a total of 2,794 rooms
• employed over 1,800 people and contributed $75m to the region through wages and salaries, food and beverage purchases, rates and other expenditure, up from $66m in 2010. Wages and salaries, and local council rates made up $34.7m and $1.7m respectively of this total.

NB: this commentary excludes the Christchurch results. As a result of the earthquakes the city’s hotel room inventory dropped from 3717 pre-February 2011 to 853 rooms after the earthquake. Hotels that are currently operating have significantly increased occupancy and average room rates outside the normal range and for this reason have not been included in this summary.

Ms Shadbolt said Queenstown hotels never expected the Rugby World Cup to have a big impact on business in 2011. However the disruption caused by the Christchurch earthquakes and the resulting relocation of RWC games away from the South Island had a greater impact on Queenstown RWC visitor numbers than previously anticipated. The region did however benefit from some RWC team and visitor business in September, with strong market driven room rates achieved by those hotels hosting these guests. These rates helped increase the average room rate for Queenstown in 2011.

“The RWC period brought some challenges for hotels, with significant displacement of traditional September and October business being pushed out to either side of the event,” she said.

Penny Clark, NZHC Queenstown Regional Chair and GM Goldridge Resort, said, “2011 was a difficult year for hotels. Natural disasters including earthquakes both in New Zealand and overseas, ash clouds, a major sporting event, ongoing global financial problems in Europe and the USA and a soft ski season all had a cumulative effect. Queenstown is so reliant on the free independent traveller and group tour markets that any one ‘event’ can have an impact on results. To have many ‘events’ presented to us in one year was certainly challenging.”

Nationwide, the 2011 annual survey highlighted the significant shift in booking patterns, with more visitors choosing to book at the last minute. This was represented by a 9 point shift to 42% of all NZHC hotel room bookings being booked less than eight days prior to arrival. Queenstown sat well below the national average on 22%.

Ms Clark said there was certainly an increase on last year where only 17% of bookings were short lead.

“We have seen a definite shift in booking patterns, with lead times getting shorter and shorter particularly as people seek out good deals online. The change in visitor arrivals also had an impact. Traditional long haul markets like the UK, Europe or USA tend to book six months out from arrival and these markets have declined, replaced by more short lead Asia market business.”

Looking ahead to 2012, Ms Clark said hoteliers were cautiously optimistic and hoping for a good ski season. Moving the school holidays back into September would also help (they were moved to October in 2011 for RWC) and fingers were crossed for a strong trans-Tasman and domestic ski season.

Other highlights from the NZHC Annual Hotel Operating Survey 2011:

• NZHC members directly employed almost 11,000 permanent and casual staff
• Christchurch achieved the highest annual occupancy of 85%, however this was off a reduced inventory base of 853 rooms compared to 3717 rooms before the February 2011 earthquake
• Excluding Christchurch, Auckland achieved the highest annual occupancy rate of 77.1%, followed by Wellington (73.6%) and Rotorua (64.6%)
• The Central Park region (Taupo, Tongariro, Napier and Gisborne) had the highest average room rate of $160.10, followed by Auckland ($157.60) and Wellington ($150.10)
• The average room rate for 5-star hotels was $217.50, up $39.33 compared to 2010 ($178.70)
• The average room rate for 4.5 star was $148.00, up $15.90 compared to 2010 ($132.10)
• The largest individual source of business was FIT/leisure travellers – 40% of all rooms sold, down 3 points compared to 2010, followed by corporate (23%) and tours & groups (18%)
• The largest consumers of hotel accommodation in 2011 were New Zealanders (54% of all rooms sold), followed by Australians (16%)
• On average, 42% of bookings were short-term (made up to seven days prior to arrival), 33% were medium-term (8-30 days prior to arrival) and 25% were long-term (more than 30 days prior to arrival).

About the New Zealand Hotel Council

• Represents the interests of New Zealand’s international chain, large independent and privately owned hotels around the country.
• Over 118* members, largely in eight tourism centres (Auckland, Rotorua, Central Park, Wellington, Blenheim/Marlborough, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown), account for around 80% of total hotel capacity and close to 100% of ‘large hotel’ inventory.
• Collectively, NZHC members operate over 16,446* hotel rooms, control assets with a capital value in excess of NZ$2.9 billion, generate annual revenue of over NZ$909 million, and employ over 10,500 full and part time staff.
• NZHC runs an Annual Operating Survey across its members each year. The data collected is reported back to each region in a presentation to NZHC members, tourism partners, local government and regional stakeholders.

*NZHC Christchurch member hotels that are closed due to earthquake damage have been excluded from the 2011 Annual Operating Survey analysis.


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