Paul Anderson has been chief executive of Queenstown-based NZSki for the past two years. The company owns and operates the Coronet Peak, Remarkables and Mt Hutt ski areas, catering for more than 500,000 visitors a year and employs more than 1100 staff at the height of the season. He comes from a commercial background, previously holding senior roles in the private, public and local government sectors, most recently as general manager corporate services for Christchurch City Council. He has also worked in senior finance and operational roles at Telecom New Zealand and before that in the London, New York and Tokyo offices of English investment bank NatWest GFM. Anderson started his career as a policy analyst at the New Zealand Treasury. He holds a master of commerce from the University of Canterbury, is a chartered accountant (CA) and a chartered member of the Institute of Directors. He is also a director of the Local Government Funding Agency and of EcoCentral. He says he does his best to hit the slopes as often as possible - around three days a week.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business at the moment?
With a relatively short operating period and a high level of capital investment on the ski areas, the ski business depends on achieving sufficient visitors in a short space of time to make a return on the capital invested. The biggest challenge to this is the growth of other active and passive activities for potential guests' leisure time and spend. This is exacerbated by the perception that going skiing is difficult and there are "easier" things to do.
How will the fall in the Kiwi dollar against our main tourism partners affect your operation?
The relative strength of the Kiwi dollar earlier this year caused some softening in demand from the east coast of Australia, especially through wholesale channels. The flip side of that is that we should see some benefit from the fall in the Kiwi dollar as Australians start to view New Zealand as better value - especially if our good snow conditions persist. Unfortunately, much of our capital investment is in either US dollars or euros, so a weaker Kiwi dollar will mean we may need to curtail some purchases this summer.
What's the worst part of your job?
We've made significant investments in snowmaking and grooming particularly, but the decisions around start-up and shut-down of the ski areas are undoubtedly the worst part of this job. Ultimately, we have to react to the hand that Mother Nature deals us and, although staff and our guests understand that, it doesn't make the tough decisions any easier. The best thing we can do is to be open and honest with the reasons for our decisions in the hope the decisions are understood, if not accepted.
What's the best part of your job?
Without a doubt the people who choose to make a career in the ski industry are the best part of the job. Ski industry people are wired with a passion for the mountains and for the exhilaration of snowsports and they love to share this passion with others. That's a fantastic basis to build a business on.
What initiatives do you have underway this year?
Over the past two seasons we've invested $45 million in The Remarkables ski area. Our base building. It's allowed us to offer premium ski area facilities at both of Queenstown's ski areas - Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. This investment is on top of ongoing improvements to terrain and restaurant facilities and menus at all three ski areas. We've also launched a new website and webstore in time for this season.
How is your business affected by new technology/digital disrupters?
We're seeing ongoing growth in direct sales as our guests become more confident in using online booking engines. We've just invested in an e-commerce platform and have released the first stages of that this season. We will continue to develop this channel to enable our guests to easily research and purchase direct from us, prior to arriving in Queenstown or Methven.