Tourist famine hits Tekapo hard

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Family focus . . . The Gualters, (from left) Henry, Alex, Matthew, Annabelle and Tussock. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The Gualter family of Lake Tekapo are among many who are feeling the effects of Covid-19 on the tourism industry. They spoke to George Clark about the future.

Three years ago, Tussock and Alexandra Gualter moved with their family from Geraldine to Tekapo.

They were the former owner-operators of Rangitata Rafts for 20 years.

“We decided to have a change but did not want to move too far away as it was important to all of us to still be close to our friends and family in Geraldine.

“We loved the idea of Tekapo for the scenery, sunshine and as tourism had been our life we thought it was a good option,” Mrs Gualter said.

“We took a leap of faith and made the move without any idea of what jobs lay ahead for us.”

Three months later they became the owners of property management company Discover Tekapo Accommodation.

There they managed a wide range of short-term rental accommodation, along with a small number of long-term properties.

They, among other tourist destinations, face financial hardship in the wake of a Covid-19 world.

“Everyone is facing difficulty here,” she said.

“Tekapo is a tourist destination. Not only is it business owners under pressure but also those who have already lost their jobs may still.

“Many of these people have been living here for years, calling it their home while many were not willing to move to a remote town and work weekends. Now many of these people are without a job and face the uncertainty of what lies ahead.”

Mrs Gualter said Covid-19 had pulled the rug out from under their feet in the blink of an eye.

Once coronavirus hit China, cancellations started flowing in, when the borders closed she said “that was pretty much it”.

Their figures are down 95% on last year.

“Over lockdown we did have a few foreigners who chose to stay. They felt lucky to be spending that time in such a beautiful, quiet location and it was lovely for us to be able to provide a safe and affordable haven for them.”

Her hope for the immediate future is for all to get to know their community better and support one another.

“Also, that Immigration will allow those who have lost their jobs to be flexible with their visas, which would allow them the opportunity to find jobs with other employers in New Zealand until they are able to get home.

“The scenery has not changed and it is certainly a truly beautiful place to live. The dramatic scenery and the changing seasons, each unique and beautiful. And the sunshine – how often do you leave the grey cloud behind as you come over Burkes Pass into the sunshine and blue sky? I love that.”

Fond farewell . . . Discover Tekapo Accomodation owner operators Tussock (front, in blue) and Alex Gualter (middle, in red) with staff at a leaving function for one team member in late February. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

 

A feeling of optimism pokes through the uncertainty.

She said it is great to see New Zealanders coming to support local tourist spots and enjoy “after lockdown” rates.

“This time will allow us to look at new and different opportunities for Tekapo, which is exciting.

For the first time in years some affordable are rentals available.

“So if you have a business where you can work from home or have a business idea, Tekapo would love to see you and if you have younger children, that’s an extra bonus for the town.”