The transtasman travel bubble has opened and Methven’s Peter Wood couldn’t be happier.
Peter, who runs Ski Time restaurant, accommodation and conference centre with his wife Susanne, is facing his 36th winter season at Ski Time and said the travel bubble with Australia was a welcome boost.
“It’s bloody fantastic. It’s a lifeline for people in our business.”
Australians made up around 70 per cent of Ski Time’s clientele, especially in winter when they were drawn to Mt Hutt skifield.
The past year had been challenging, he said.
“One minute we have bookings from Auckland, the next with a lockdown every single one cancels; it’s been very challenging.”
The opening of the transtasman bubble would help with staff planning and give staff confidence too, he said.
Covid had seen Ski Time reduce to a skeleton staff of five or six for most of the year; at peak season, staff numbers traditionally sat at around 18.
Peter said the installation of an eight-seater chairlift at Mt Hutt and the development of Opuke Thermal Pools and Spa were drawcards for the town and, what he hoped would be a busy ski season.
“A busy upcoming season is absolutely key for us and others. We just need the visitors,” he said.
Within hours of the travel bubble announcement they had their first bookings from Australia, which were timed for the ski season.
The couple have a high number of regular guests who return each year and were expecting – and hoping – others would follow suit in the coming weeks.
It is the same for hospitality businesses across New Zealand who were ready to welcome an influx of Australian travellers, business people and Kiwis returning home to visit family.
Hospitality New Zealand chief executive officer Julie White said businesses had been waiting for the borders to open for a year.
“Our members are champing at the bit to welcome visitors back,” she said.
“There will be more than a few smiles out there … I’m optimistic the bubble will be enough to save some businesses. With winter and our ski season just around the corner it’s crucial they grab every opportunity.”
It is a sentiment shared by the Methven businessman.
There had been talk of deferring development in the area due to covid, Peter said. But he was very pleased projects had gone ahead and how Methven businesses were able to work together for the betterment of all.
Methven hadn’t sat on its laurels, it carried on with plans despite covid, he said. And now it was going to be better off with the hot pools due to open in August, the new chairlift on the mountain and subdivision work under way in the town, he said.
The subdivision is directly across the road from Ski Time, along the north-western town boundary.
Peter just hoped the bookings were the first of many.
The past year had been hard but helped by the support of the Methven community, some domestic travellers and the covid wage subsidy, he said.
Unable to travel the world, Ski Time organised international-themed dinner nights to bring the world to Methven and these generally booked out quite fast, he said.
Air New Zealand said 5000 passengers travelled between New Zealand and Australia on 30 flights on Monday.
-By Toni Williams