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Queenstown’s loss of hostels puts pressure on staffing

Young person hiking on Roys peak track, Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand

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NZ Hostel Association’s lead Brett Duncan says a lot of the hostels which used to provide seasonal accommodation in Queenstown have disappeared. (file picture)
Photo: 123RF

The loss of longer stay backpacker beds is taking a toll on Queenstown’s staffing shortages, a hostel owner says.

Previously, some seasonal workers would stay in hostels for weeks or months at a time while staying in Queenstown.

Adventure Hostels NZ managing director Brett Duncan, who is also NZ Hostel Association’s lead, operates two boutique hostels in Queenstown and has been renovating a former Wānaka hostel.

Half of the Wānaka hostel is up and running, offering longer stays, while the other half was a few months from being ready.

“Since Covid, we’ve lost so much bed stock,” Duncan said. “A lot of the hostels that used to provide a lot more of this seasonal accommodation have disappeared.

“And those that are left have far, far less incentive to do now … and I don’t think anyone is going to blame them for wanting to take the short termers over the long termers that would generate a higher revenue when this country’s been operating at about 18 to 20 percent capacity or occupancy over the last two-and-a-half years, losing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

There was already a lot of competition for housing before the pandemic, so it was easy for hostels to set aside a few beds with a weekly rate and also help out other industries with staff housing in the process, he said.

“Definitely, there’s been an impact there with the long-term beds disappearing and that’s putting pressure on not just the hostel industry, but definitely hospitality and other tourism businesses.”

Before the pandemic, some of the bigger hostels would offer a couple of dozen or more longer stay beds, he said.

“Some hostels would only do a very, very small handful – two or three – that maybe shared a room with their staff or something like that, and other hostels would create whole wings and there are some smaller hostels that would [offer] 100 percent long-term and run more like a traditional boarding house than a hostel.”

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