Queenstown tourism businesses face worker shortage as sky-high rents bite

Sky-high rents and an accommodation squeeze is putting pressure on Queenstown tourism businesses.

Many seasonal workers are spending less time in the resort town, because they simply can't afford to live there.

But one business has come up with a solution.

A cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the Earnslaw is one of Queenstown's most popular tourist attractions.

Around 250,000 people visit Walter Peak each year for a high country farm experience.

But attracting staff to work here is increasingly difficult.

"Housing issue has now really come to the fore. We get people turning us down now, because they simply can't live in Queenstown," says Richard Lauder, from Real Journeys.

It's a struggle for employers, with high rents and limited accommodation forcing many workers to look elsewhere.

"There's no shortage of people wanting to come here, it's an attractive place to live and work and play, but it is very very difficult to find accommodation for all types of people," says Queenstown Chamber of Commerce CEO Anna Mickell.

Welshman Aled Jones works at Walter Peak, and found Queenstown living hard.

"The rent is just crazy. Even for a tiny room, you're spending well over $200 a week," he says.

And Grace Williams spent a few months living in a hostel, before finding a house downtown.

"But there was two people in each room. It was $200 just for that, no bills, no food, no nothing included. So it was still a hefty amount for no privacy," she says.

That squeeze is putting pressure on Real Journeys to fill job vacancies. The company noticed some seasonal workers were cutting their contracts from six months to just three - and half of all job applicants were enquiring about staff accommodation.

In response, it's built the first stage of a 50-strong staff village at Walter Peak.

"By providing accommodation we can retain the best people, for longer periods of time,"  Lauder says.

It's something a number of tourism businesses are looking at.

At Walter Peak, workers pay just $95 a week including food and utilities for an ensuite bedroom with new furniture and appliances.

"It just makes a huge difference, [you're] effectively paying a third or half of the rent you would be in Queenstown," Jones says.

"I think if I wasn't living and working here, I wouldn't still be in Queenstown," Williams adds.

Helping extend those working holidays, and ensuring the region's tourism industry keeps pace with the growth.