Covid 19 Coronavirus: Queenstown’s grownup business is combating with out vacationers

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The absence of wealthy overseas tourists has weighed heavily on the adult entertainment industry in Queenstown. File Photo / Michael Armadeus, Unsplash

The absence of wealthy overseas tourists has put a heavy strain on the adult entertainment industry in Queenstown as New Zealanders are less willing to spend.

Pamper Me New Zealand owner Antonia Davison-McDonald said her striptease company lost 80 percent of bookings due to Covid-19.

Australians attending bachelorette parties, bachelorette parties and boys’ weekends used their agency to hire topless waitresses and book stripteases for men or women.

The lack of bookings meant that five of their employees had moved from Queenstown because they could no longer afford to live there.

Davison-McDonald said her employees worked for Indulge Me NZ as a second job to pay rent or finance their lifestyle and in some cases the pandemic meant they had lost their main jobs.

She and others in the wider adult entertainment industry said Christmas was more of a quiet time, but their business was still recovering from the loss of income in August – usually the busiest time.

“This year has been a terrible one; last August we had 26 bookings and this year we had five.”

Small groups of wealthy Australians usually paid women to work on a large property they rented, while New Zealanders booked fewer staff and for shorter periods of time.

However, the high-end escort business Bon Ton has decided to open in Queenstown.

Jennifer Souness, who founded the agency in Wellington, said she would have no problem with demand without Covid-19, but restrictions exclude wealthy foreign tourists so her business wasn’t booked until September.

After initially struggling to recruit new employees due to advertising issues with Trade Me, she received a flood of applications from women who wanted to “love sex” and make money, but Christmas had turned out to be meager.

“Talking to my friends who have agencies in different cities told me the business is great, but Queenstown is different.”

She felt that the Transtasman bubble was going to be “huge” as her company wasn’t out to serve the mass market.

An independent escort who wanted to remain anonymous said she has built steady numbers of clients since moving to Queenstown in November, mostly from the senior resident population.

New Zealand sex workers national coordinator Dame Catherine Healy said sex work in general in Queenstown has been hampered by a “hostile statute” that is inconsistent with the rest of the country and that resident sex workers are few.

New Zealand sex workers national coordinator Dame Catherine Healy says sex work in general is done in Queenstown by one New Zealand sex workers national coordinator Dame Catherine Healy says sex work in general has been made difficult in Queenstown by a “hostile statute”. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She said sex workers continued to tour the South Island, including Queenstown, but only stayed a few days while proactively seeking clients.

“It’s normal business for sure, but Queenstown is a tourist town and sex workers will rely on domestic servants to visit them.”

Dame Catherine said the statutes, which by and large prevented brothels, “created situations that can be quite threatening”.

However, she thanked the Queenstown Police Department for prioritizing the safety of sex workers.

Queenstown’s last long-running brothel closed in 2008, although illegal ones have since been found.

The 2017 Brothel Control Bylaw prohibited brothels from being located on or below the ground floor of a building, within 100 meters of another brothel, or in certain areas of Queenstown and Wanaka’s CBD.