Businesses urged to adapt, think laterally

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Hunker down and scale your business to suit the market, says Wanaka Community Board chairman Barry Bruce.

The Covid-19 pandemic had been a challenge for businesses but Mr Bruce was confident economic activity would grow again.

As a business owner himself, he knew first-hand the challenge for some local operators.
He estimated up to 80% of customers at his rental car business were normally people from overseas.
But it was ‘‘early days’’ and although the effects of the pandemic were challenging, the local community was resilient and much could be achieved.

Even though this time of year was ‘‘normally a quiet patch’’, he observed there seemed to be ‘‘a lot of Kiwis travelling around at the moment in camper vans’’.
The beginning of the ski season would be interesting and although there would probably not be the big volumes seen in the past, it might be more pleasant without larger crowds, making for a ‘‘pretty relaxing ski’’.

There was anticipation about opening the border between Australia and New Zealand but he thought the country did not want to run the risk of going backwards.
‘‘If we go back, you know, to Level 2 or Level 3 or Level 4, that would be a disaster.’’
He thought most people were accepting borders might have to be closed longer to stay safe.

Some businesses might have to ‘‘hunker down’’ during periods of adversity.
‘‘You have to scale your business to suit the market.’’

Mr Bruce thought the Government had been ‘‘very keen’’ on a high-volume tourist model, but the message from various sectors of the community was rapid growth was not necessarily the best.
‘‘We need to be probably thinking of quality rather than quantity.’’

It might prove Wanaka could be successful without a huge volume-based model, he said.
Travellers who came individually or in a small group sometimes stayed longer and spent more money locally than package tours.
While some package tours might stay for about a week, individuals or smaller groups could be in the region for months.
‘‘They’ll rent a house or apartment or rent a car and that’s an extended period, you know, some of them are here for three months or more.’’

While visitor numbers were lower at present, the Wanaka Community Board had some ‘‘breathing space’’ to take stock of the infrastructure and facilities that were needed.
While it was making progress with many parking and traffic projects, it also had the opportunity to re-evaluate and make better decisions about more long-term developments.

The economy in Wanaka was primarily construction and tourism, but there were opportunities for people to embrace a more remote working environment and broaden the economic base.
‘‘If you’ve got some diversity to your economic base, then that’s going to reduce the effects of these downturns or global pandemic.’’

An example could be a company basing people in the region.
‘‘If you’ve got clever people who are doing some smart stuff with product research and development, they might want to live in a nice area.’’
The board and the council were available to help if organisations wanted to set up something ‘‘that is totally different from the norm’’.
‘‘Out of adversity comes opportunity. So we’ve just got to have our thinking caps on.’’