It is with disappointment that the Queenstown Winter Pride festival has been cancelled for a second year.
This will be a loss for the Lakes but also LGBTQ+ travellers, as a new study reveals that over half of the community (60 per cent) say they still feel their identity puts some destinations off limits. Queenstown Pride week is normally a reminder of the city's open attitude to all visitors.
One of the Southern Hemisphere's biggest Pride events, scheduled for 27 August - 5 September, it was forced to cancel or move events online when Covid alert levels were extended.
"Whilst we can't be together in person, pride is also about awareness raising, visibility, and striving towards a more inclusive, safe and welcoming world for our LGBTQ+ communities," says organiser Martin King.
While originally hoping to deliver a scaled-down schedule under Level 2 rules - including pre-registration and 100 person caps on attendees - the extension ruled out delaying the festival or proceeding with restrictions.
As an internationally recognised festival, this time of year would normally see visitors from all over the world arrive in Queenstown for the LGBTQ+ event. The largest contingent of these (45 per cent) came from Australia.
Back in July, with the Transtasman bubble still in place, early indicators showed over 1000 inbound bookings.
"Our guests also stay longer - an average of 7-8 days, they spend more, and they are also more likely to return," King told the Herald, back in July.
The cancellation will be a big blow to the Queenstown hospitality sector. There had been a "robust Covid-19 safety plan" for operating under Level 2 however, the festival could not go ahead with the country still under lockdown.
Some community events being held by festival partners have decided to postpone until alert levels allow.
There will, however, be a number of virtual events being held to spread some much-needed festival atmosphere. Celebrity queens Kita Mean and Anita Wigl'it will be hosting an online drag show and there will be a live Pride DJ set held on the Saturday night, 4 September.
These online initiatives include art project Postcards from Pride. With portrait of the Zealand Pride community by photographer Becki Moss, the images are on sale to raise money for charity OutLine Aotearoa.
Organised by festival partner Booking.com the bookings website said that, despite travel restrictions affecting Winter Pride, they hoped the project would help the hospitality industry become more inclusive.
Earlier this year the website conducted a survey of 3052 LGBTQ+ travellers in New Zealand, Australia and internationally, who said that there were still many obstacles to travel for the rainbow community.
58 per cent of those surveyed said concerns over their safety as an LGBTQ+ were a factor in choosing a holiday. 55 per cent said they felt they could not be themselves while on holiday, choosing to dress differently or avoid wearing makeup.
Booking.com's area manager, Todd Lacey praised Queenstown Winter pride for what it had achieved.
"We firmly believe we can get there together and that everyone should be able to experience the world as themselves, always."