New Zealand skiers already pulling Queenstown's economy back from brink

It looks as though Kiwi skiers are already pulling resorts like Queenstown back from the brink.

During lockdown many feared for the future of the South Island ski resorts, which traditionally rely heavily on overseas tourists.

But national bookings are up so much that Queenstown's mayor is demanding more domestic flights for inbound tourists.

The queues are back at one of the country's most popular burger joints, Fergburger. And Aucklanders are back snapping for Instagram. It's Queenstown, almost as we once knew it.

"There's no better spot to be in winter than Queenstown," one person told Newshub.

When some businesses lost up to 90 percent of custom during lockdown, there were dire predictions for Queenstown and Wanaka.

And while they're not at the top of the mountain just yet, operators are pleasantly surprised by the uptake in domestic bookings.

"We're seeing bookings from all over NZ and they're coming in thick and fast and it's great," Cardrona and Treble Cone CEO Bridget Legnavsky says.

"I've actually had to go to Air NZ and ask them to put more capacity on, so we are seeing good signs," Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult says.

Queenstown locals say things are looking up.

"I think it will bring a few people from up north that were planning on going overseas," one person told Newshub.

With some bumper snow, that ski season could turn out to be the region's silver bullet.

Skifield operators around the country are not pinning all their hopes on a trans-Tasman bubble opening but rather Kiwis who can afford it taking a winter ski holiday because they aren't able to go to say Bali or Fiji.

Wanaka Olympic skier Jossi Wells has voiced a new winter ski campaign to draw people in. But things are already looking promising.

"It's almost like daily we just see a little bit more buoyancy and a bit more buoyancy and we get a bit more hope from something that we thought was going to be very conservative and quiet," Legnavsky says.

The CEO of Whakapapa and Turoa says they too are feeling more positive with the green light to operate and an uptake in sales and bookings.

Not long ago there was talk of the Queenstown economy becoming a blood-bath in the wake of COVID-19.

And while there are still some looming worries for the region, it's looking like some of the blood may have already been mopped up.