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Travel bubble popping ‘challenges hospitality operators’

"Not unexpected but still disappointing."

Peter and Susanne Wood, who run Ski Time in Methven, say they received their first cancellation from booked Australian guests, 19 minutes after the Prime Minister announced the travel bubble would be closed from 11:59pm on Friday night.

Ski Time provides accommodation, one of the region’s leading restaurants and boutique conference facilities a little more than an hour out of Christchurch.

Susanne says they expect many more cancellations to come.

"We were pretty full over the next month because of school holidays across the Tasman," she says. "Some of our guests from Australia are already in the country so their bookings aren’t affected but those who aren’t here yet will be cancelling."

It’s been a busy last couple of weeks in Methven with outstanding ski conditions at Mt Hutt and New Zealand school holidays bringing guests in from around the country.

Peter says he was surprised at the length of the timeframe the PM put in place for the travel pause.

"We thought maybe four weeks and didn’t expect two months. But that will take us up to the next Queensland school holidays and the NSW term break after that, so we will look ahead to that."

The Woods’ say they expect people who were heading to Australia from New Zealand to travel locally, and those who were planning gatherings, conferences or other events across the ditch, will now be looking closer to home.

"We have two conferences next week at Ski Time and know that people wanted to book their conference with us because they didn’t want to risk heading overseas. The skiing is excellent right now, and with our restaurant and other facilities, as well as being so close to Christchurch, companies can fly their teams down and be at Ski Time in an hour and a half. It’s very appealing," says Peter.

Both Susanne and Peter are realistic though, and say the challenges that COVID presents means being nimble is absolutely critical to keeping a business in tourism running right now.

"You have to adjust, there is no choice," says Peter.

"We have a dedicated and professional team here at Ski Time and we all pull together, making it work. We may have to reduce the nights we open the restaurant, for example, or how long we are open for but the local support has been outstanding over the last 18 months and we know that will continue."

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