Winter Pride Queenstown to go ahead despite Australian border closure

Around 50 percent of the festival's audience is usually Australian.
Around 50 percent of the festival's audience is usually Australian. Photo credit: Winter Pride Queenstown/Getty Images

Plans for Queenstown's Winter Pride festival in late August have taken a "massive blow" with the closure of the quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia, but organisers say the show will go on.

Australians have previously made up around 50 percent of Winter Pride's audience. Organiser Martin King says he's disappointed Aussie supporters won't be able to make this year's festival, which is set to be the biggest one yet.

"At this stage we are full steam ahead and plan to run the entire schedule. Some of our events had waitlists so we have opened them up and been able to sell those cancelled tickets to Kiwis," he said.

King added that of the more than 50 events planned, only a couple may need to be cancelled as a result of the border closure, but a final decision will be made next week.

He said organisers have processed 500 cancellations in the last 48 hours and refunded almost $60,000.  

"The flow on economic impact for the region will be millions, with Aussie guests staying an average of eight nights each, and more than 60 percent of them planning to ski or board at some stage," he said. 

With half of the expected audience now stuck in Australia, it means hotel rooms which were booked, may now sit empty. Opening up the possibility for Kiwis to be able to book accommodation during Winter Pride at a discounted rate.

"We would love to see more Kiwis taking the opportunity to support the festival and the local economy. From our perspective, we now have more capacity and loads of events for people to get access to."

King said Winter Pride is for everyone in the LGBTTQI+ communities, as well as allies and supporters who want to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Many events take place during the day, opening up the festival to family holidaymakers too. 

He said events such as the festival, dog show, market day and story time at the local library are events that everyone in the community can get involved with.

Destination Queenstown said the closing of the Tasman bubble is likely to have a significant effect on local operators and event organisers.

"Queenstown has enjoyed amazing support from New Zealand visitors over the last 14 months, which we are very grateful for, and we look forward to continuing to welcome more Kiwis in the coming weeks and months," a spokesperson said.

Destination Queenstown also praised the organisers of Winter Pride for their ability to flex and pivot during the pandemic.

"The event organisers adapted well to run a domestic-only event in 2020, and we are certain they will hold another fantastic event again this year."