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Queenstown businesses struggle to serve school holiday influx

Jul 11, 2022

A Queenstown eatery says they have been struggling to serve an influx of tourists flocking to the town for the school holidays.

Three staff testing positive for Covid-19 over the past week has forced Margo's, a Mexican-inspired restaurant, to alter its opening hours and close for one day a week.

It comes as the daily rolling average of national Covid-19 cases increased by nearly 2,000 in the past week, stoking warnings of a second Omicron wave.

Margo's director Bert Haines says staff absence is the biggest challenge they are facing.

"We've been trying to meet our own expectations and meet customer expectations, especially with our bookings but we're unable to because we can't get the numbers we need to stay operational," he explained.

No business in Queenstown had enough staff to begin with and illness was now exacerbating the problem, Haines said.

Uncertainty is rife and he said the first question sick staff asked was whether they would still get a pay check at the end of the week.

But despite the challenge of managing illness, he said they were upbeat and grateful to have tourists back.

"We're just trying to stay as positive as we can and roll with the punches and do everything we can to look after everyone right in front of us. After the last two years, it's been tremendous to have this uplift in trade - it's fantastic.

"But first and foremost is everyone's health."

Customers were patient and understanding of the situation, which was much appreciated, he said.

It was a different story in Wellington where hospitality business owner Maura Rigby described the first holiday weekend as quieter than usual.

"We did notice a bit of a slow down from Thursday onwards... We weren't expecting it over this weekend, we were expecting to be gearing up for the holidays and an ordinary, busy weekend so it did surprise us a little bit," she explained.

The jump in cases and bad weather might have been factors, she said.

Rigby co-owns cafes Nolita and Beach Babylon along with bar Little Beer Quarter.

She also said staff illness was a big concern, especially with some now catching the virus for a second time.

But so far they were coping and the businesses were operating at their regular capacity, she said.

Main image: Central Queenstown.

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