Queenstown businesses respond to online hate: 'Please be kind'

This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Queenstown has gone from being described as tourism's crown jewel to a community facing vitriol and told it's getting what it deserves.

Businesses say it's not just the iconic destination that's been in the cross-hairs of online hate, with the tourism sector also copping a lot of flak.

Here's just a sample of some of the social media hate Queenstown businesses have faced recently:


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Queenstown have made their own bed and now they have to lie in it. No pity from someone who like everyone else was overcharged in that town.

Yes, we get it. Queenstown didn't have a Plan B and now the place is choking. Boo hoo. The whole ghastly place operated on the basis that the international tourism market would never change. Then it did. These constant news stories about pompous Queenstown business owners bleating about their lost business are getting a bit repetitive. Most of us really don't care.

Queenstown, cry me a river, then set up a jet boat ripoff operation on it.

Villa del Lago hotel owner Nik Kiddle has heard it on talk back radio, and anecdotally from other operators and online.

I thought that the whole government approach to managing Covid-19 was to be supportive of each other. This is definitely not supportive of each other. I just don't get why New Zealanders want to do that, Kiddle said.

We have been making such a solid contribution to people's enjoyment of this country for such a long time. We're now paying the highest price for the health protection, and we remain welcoming of New Zealanders and international travellers alike so why try to kill us off?

Tall poppy syndrome was a phrase that kept on cropping up, he said.

People here feel that we're being victimised because we were a shining success for a long time. The leading light of New Zealand's largest services export sector and people aren't necessarily always going to embrace that as a positive thing.

We feel that we've made a fantastic contribution to the welfare of this country both in terms of public health and its economic growth.

He challenged the perceptions that Queenstown was unaffordable, saying it was a misconception and businesses had worked hard to cater for and welcome New Zealanders to the resort town.

Many operators RNZ spoke to acknowledged the vitriol was there, but said they did not want to stick their necks out or feed it.

While online vitriol is not new, the volume is increasing.

Haka Tours and ANZ Nature Tours general manager Eve Lawrence has experienced it first hand.

I get it all the time in LinkedIn with comments saying 'tourism is getting what it deserves'. But I just think that it's crazy and this is coming from people who really don't truly understand the value of what we provide, Lawrence said.

She suggested a campaign was needed to showcase what tourism contributed to communities and the environment.

Before the pandemic, tourism was the country's biggest export earner worth roughly $42 billion a year and employing close to 15 percent of the working population either directly or indirectly.

To be completely vilified by people who have very little understanding of the industry as a whole, is quite frankly a little bit condescending.

Supplied
Chris Roberts, chief executive of Tourism Industry Aotearoa (File photo)

Active Adventures chief executive Wendy van Lieshout said her business had escaped the online hate.

I don't think people realise in general that mostly the tourism operators here in Queenstown particularly, they're just family-run, small businesses. We're not talking large corporates here. We're no different to anybody else and any industry ... we're absolutely no different, and we're just trying to make ends meet so please be kind.

There had been more talk about tourism having a hard time in the last few weeks, she said.

We're at a stage now where we know what's happened and why. We all need to find our own way through it in some shape or form, and it's certainly not very constructive for that negativity because it's hard enough as it is without that.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive said receiving that kind of vitriol would be galling for businesses.

Look I do feel for businesses when they get personally targeted. They feel like they've been kicked while they're already down. They're struggling to survive, to keep their businesses going, and it's obviously devastating for them to receive direct, personal abuse about even being in the tourism industry. That doesn't reflect what most New Zealanders feel, Roberts said.

Manaakitanga is a core value for the tourism industry, Roberts said, and trolls could not take that away from businesses.

We have to put it in perspective that there's a vocal minority out there who we are probably best to ignore.

Totally Tourism owner Mark Quickfall said he hoped people would do their own research into Queenstown prices.

After 40 years in tourism here, I've never seen Queenstown more competitively priced to suit the domestic [tourist]. We accept that it's not easy without those international visitors coming into town particularly over summer, Quickfall said.

But we accept that. We're in business. That's what comes when you run a business, you take the good with the bad. But if you're a visitor, now's not a bad time to come.

With borders remaining closed for the foreseeable future, businesses are asking for a bit of kindness and compassion as they try to hold on.

This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.


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