Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

In a major blow for the West Coast, the Scenic Hotel Group has decided to mothball a further two hotels in Fox Glacier and Franz Josef for an extended period.
Group managing director Brendan Taylor said the lack of a Trans Tasman bubble was the final straw, and he expected the closures to last for 12 to 18 months.
In May the Te Waonui Forest Retreat in Franz Josef and the Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier will join the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef and Glacier Country Hotel in shutting their doors to guests.
Taylor said the group had tried to stimulate domestic tourism through cut-price packages to make up for the loss of international visitors and the lack of an Australian travel bubble, but the volume and appetite are simply not there from the Kiwi market.
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The Scenic Hotel Group will mothball all four of its properties in Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, but its Haast Hotel will remain open.
Scenics four West Coast hotels used to support 160 jobs, but staff numbers had gradually been reduced to 45 and Taylor said about eight to 10 would be retained to maintain the properties during hibernation.
Most of the job losses would be at the 5-star Te Waonui Forest Retreat, and Taylor said while they would try to redeploy staff to other group hotels around the country, he had been unable to get any sense out of Immigration NZ over the transfer prospects for migrant workers on visas.
They have nowhere to go, and they can’t get out of the country.
Taylor said the decimated tourism market had resulted in a significant oversupply of accommodation and tourism product on the West Coast.
Although the Scenic Group’s decision would cost it about $2m a year, it would continue to promote the region and redirect customers to other local accommodation providers and attractions.
West Coast attractions such as Fox Glacier Guiding are expected to suffer when a further two hotels in Franz Josef and Fox close in the coming months.
This will allow smaller operators who do not have the strength of a national group to take up what tourism dollars are left.
Taylor said the bar at the Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier would remain open to cater for the local community, but the reduction in guest beds would undoubtedly have a major impact on other tourism attractions.
The helicopter flights, hiking on the glacier and the hot pools need the accommodation to be there to make their operations viable.
Taylor said that opening the border with Australia was critical for the survival of West Coast businesses, and it would allow them to reopen one hotel in Franz Josef and one in Fox Glacier.
But recommissioning all four hotels would rely on the return of North American and European markets.
“What the region needs is certainty of when, where and how international tourism will return to the West Coast.
Now could be one of the best possible times to take a heli-hiking trip on the incredible Franz Josef Glacier.