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Snowfall perks up operators

By Chris Hutching

Friday 12th May 2000

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A cold snap in the South Island is building expectations among tourism operators as they gear up to cater for strong bookings from Australia.

Reports of the first significant snowfalls, which have left a 30cm fall on Mt Hutt and about 15cm at Queenstown, have been well received in Australia where bookings are already strong as a result of marketing of package deals and direct air flights.

Mt Hutt, the Remarkables ski area and Coronet Peak at Queenstown are being marketed under the brand by owner Air New Zealand, which is also key sponsor for the annual Winter Festival in July.

Mt Hutt is usually the first ski area in Australasia to open for the season and a $1.8 million base lodge development on the mountain is close to completion. Mt Hutt's snowmaking team began testing equipment this week in preparation for the right combination of soil temperatures and humidity.

The township of Methven near Mt Hutt is expecting one of its best seasons ever thanks to an influx of several hundred film crew members working on the Lord of the Rings.

Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt are scheduled to open in early June while the Remarkables is scheduled to open in late June.

Some of the hotel and apartment developments under way in Queenstown should be completed in time to take advantage of the influx of visitors. Queenstown is experiencing a building boom with 100 apartments under construction and another 250 in planning stages. A casino is being built and other developments include cafe bar developments, two supermarkets and bulk retail stores like The Warehouse, which is about to have a $6 million upgrade.

Although there should be plenty of visitor accommodation, the increase in the number of jobs in the resort town has led to a shortage of family accommodation until new subdivisions are completed.

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