A Tourist Town Seeks a Reset in a World Without Foreign Travel

(Bloomberg) -- In a normal year, international tourism is New Zealand’s biggest export — and with its majestic alpine scenery, adventure sports and vineyards, Queenstown is usually booming.

But with the country’s border closed since March 19, there are fewer foreign accents to be heard in the resort town. Bars are shuttered, jet boats sit out of the river for half the week, and one of the area’s biggest ski fields is closed Monday to Friday.

“It was like turning off the key in the ignition of a car, it just stopped,” Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said. “The effect on local business, employment, the local economy has been horrific.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic closes borders and grounds aircraft around the world, iconic destinations from Kyoto to Amsterdam are addressing the new reality of fewer visitors and looking for ways to reset their local economies. In Queenstown, property prices are retreating from record levels and businesses are cutting costs as they brace for a long summer without the influx of European, North American and Asian tourists.