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Queenstown tour operators lash out at first post-lockdown event

Jun 16, 2020

A Queenstown business group is under fire for holding its first post lockdown event at a hotel owned by a man who is reported to owe thousands of dollars to tour operators in the town.

The Queenstown Chamber of Commerce yesterday advertised its first event for business owners in the town since Covid-19 decimated its economy, at The Grille by Eichardt's. Today it said it was reviewing the event.

Billed as an economic recovery event, it is advertised as an update for business owners, where they would be briefed on the town's post-Covid-19 plan, and speakers include Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult.

However, the event has drawn criticism as the venue is owned by businessman Andrew Cox.

The multi-millionaire also owns Adventium, the parent company of Website Travel, which is reported to owe almost $10 million globally, including thousands of dollars to local operators.

The event, posted on the chamber's Facebook page, has raised criticism from some Queenstown tourist operators.

Ian Clark who operates SkyTrek wrote on the page: "This comes across as extremely insensitive and unthoughtful on the Chambers part considering the pain that many tourism operators are going through due to this guy not paying his bills."

And Steve Hanrahan wrote: "Wow, of all the ways to get it wrong, this is pretty spectacular. At any point did anyone question this selection of venue?? The company that owes many companies around the town 10's of thousands and you're first meeting out of lockdown is to go here. Wow!"

The Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Anna Mickell said operators were rightfully upset but the location was decided on months ago.

She said staff were meeting this morning to review the decision.

Andrew Cox and tour operators have been approached for comment.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said he had spoken to some operators who have been left out of pocket by Adventium.

"They feel like this is a kick in the guts to them," Walker said.

"These tourist operators performed services months ago and still haven't been paid for doing so.

"Tourism operators are working very hard to try and stay afloat and this isn't the type of distraction they need."

Mayor Jim Boult, who was advertised to speak at the event said he was "simply a speaker", adding that he had nothing to do with organising it.

Boult did not respond when asked if he planned to attend if the event went ahead at the venue.

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