Queenstown hoteliers are experiencing an "avalanche of cancellations" in the wake of the trans-Tasman travel bubble closure, the region's mayor says.
New Zealand paused quarantine-free travel with all Australian states and territories for three days from Saturday night amid the emergence of an outbreak in Sydney and cases in Victoria and the Northern Territory.
But the announcement has hit tourism operators hard - particularly in Queenstown, which is more reliant on tourists than any other region in New Zealand.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says the border slamming shut has been "pretty tough" on local businesses.
"We are struggling to track at the present time. I don't want to moan, we are where we are - but gee the timing is awful. We've been hanging out for the Aussie school holidays, and [now] the Aussies are locked at home," he told The AM Show on Monday morning.
"I spoke to a couple of hoteliers yesterday, one described it as an avalanche of cancellations, another told me he'd lost $1 million in bookings over the last couple of months.
"I think the problem here is not only the bookings now, but the longer-term bookings, where people are getting a bit nervous in case they get over here and then get locked down again."
Boult says most businesses will survive if the Australian shut-out doesn't last too long - particularly if it reopens for part of their school holidays and Kiwi visitors travel there. But he worries that if the border closure goes on too much longer, "some more [businesses] are going to go to the wall".
"[Australians] don't come for seven days skiing alone," he explained.
"They go for a jet boat ride, an Earnslaw ride, they take a ride in the gondola, they go to restaurants, they go to bars, they go to wineries. So the whole industry will be affected."
But not everything's doom and gloom. Boult says domestic tourism to Queenstown has been great since the pandemic started - particularly on long weekends, school holidays and for events - and he hopes for more of the same amid the latest bubble closure.
"We've been getting lots of Kiwis here, last ski season we had lots of Kiwis. Let's hope they continue to come. You are more than welcome."
In announcing the temporary suspension of all quarantine-free travel from Australia, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the pause would allow the Government "to get a better understanding of the developing situation".
He also said it would give them time to "consider the potential implementation of a range of measures to make the bubble safer, such as the introduction of pre-departure testing for all flights from Australia to New Zealand".
The pause came into effect at 10:30pm on Saturday and will remain in place until 11:59pm on Tuesday. It follows a temporary pause on travel with New South Wales, which was put in place last week and is set to last until at least July 6.