The COVID-19 crisis puts everybody to a test: above all the members of national governments and entrepreneurs in virtually every sector imaginable. In their efforts to keep the virus from spreading through appropriate measures, the politicians set the scene for the business leaders to act in keeping their ventures afloat. New Zealand counts among the countries most envied for their control over SARS-CoV-2, with one of the lowest infection rates and even lower mortality. And one particular business in Queenstown serves as the model case for corporate resilience in New Zealand: it happens to be a wind tunnel.
It was iFLY's Simon Ward who, in a recent phone conversation, pointed me in the direction of the 'uplifting' story that is currently playing out in New Zealand and in the country's adventure tourism capital Queenstown. More: one could easily argue that the city on the South Island with a population of just over 15,000 is the global hub for adventure tourism – and that the latter brand was, in fact, created there. As a client of the A.J. Hackett bungee jump operation back in the early 1980s, I could certainly attest to that.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Regional Tourism Estimates for the year ending 31 January 2019 indicated that international tourism accounted for a total expenditure of NZ$ 1.5 billion in the local Queenstown economy – as opposed to domestic tourism's NZ$ 837 million. The combined tourism spend figure of $2.34 billion for the year being more than twice the amount of NZ$ 1 billion in 2010 ... Excellent news!
Then came the virus and international tourism, i.e. two thirds of the expenditure, disappeared overnight.
What followed is told by Matt Wong, the General Manager of iFLY NZ LTD., in the report he authored for his company's accountants: Don't Waste A Good Crisis!
The Queenstown press took up on the iFLY story, too, with the Otalo Daily Times publishing
Wind tunnel business dives back into it
Upbeat Dame Patsy and tourism students meet up at iFly
National media headlined
NZ$ 17 million invested in teaching tourism how to attract Kiwis
I hope I will be able to dwell even deeper into this success story when I interview iFLY's Simon Ward in early September. In any case, even with the case presented as it is in these articles, it should serve as an inspiration to tunnel operators already.
Yes, Auckland, New Zealand's capital, went on lockdown again yesterday, after it had a run of more than 100 (!) days without any local infections. But somehow I am convinced that NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and iFLY Queenstown's Matt Wong will pull through this one too.