Queenstown Tourism Operators getting prepared

Queenstown Tourism Operators getting prepared

By Erica Seville (Resilient Organisations) and Trevor Andrews (Emergency Management Otago)
May 2019

This month, Erica Seville, spent an afternoon with the Queenstown Lakes district TORQUE group.  TORQUE (which stands for Tourism Operator Responders of Queenstown), brings together the largest tourism operators in the district, along with the Department of Conservation, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and Emergency Management Otago, to collectively address the challenge of looking after up to 75,000 visitors in a major disaster.  These visitors underpin the district’s economic prosperity, but also create one of Otago’s biggest challenges in planning for a major event response.  In peak summer and winter periods, there can be up to two visitors for every local in area!

TORQUE members have committed to planning to look after their clients as well as their staff in a major event.  This includes making provision to shelter clients “in place” if necessary, and providing logistical support for moving and possibly evacuating affected people and communities.  This is underpinned by ensuring that their own staff are well prepared and trained for emergencies, and that their business continuity plans are thorough and well exercised.

In her session with the TORQUE group, Erica focused on practical strategies to use within their own organisations, and collectively as a sector, to build engagement and momentum for resilience building activities, and prioritise areas of focus.  “A well-prepared Tourism Operators sector can be a fantastic resource for the region.  They have a fleet of helicopters, 4WD vehicles, boats, and radio communications, as well as trained staff used to dealing with people and operating in extreme and often remote conditions.  There are also opportunities to leverage the skills and capabilities of visitors in the area at the time of an event.   Thinking through, in advance, how to appropriately tap into this visitor resource shifts our frame of reference from seeing visitors as a logistical challenge, to being a potential opportunity for supporting the Queenstown Lakes region during response and recovery.”