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Skyline Queenstown marks 50 years of operations
Skyline Queenstown has marked the 50th anniversary of its operations – looking back to Friday 17th November 1967, when eight brightly-coloured gondola cabins began ascending the cableway to Bob’s Peak and the then-Skyline Chalet, 450 metres above Queenstown.
Almost 1200 people rode New Zealand’s first gondola that day, to view the now-world-famous vista of The Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown below.
50 years on, Skyline Queenstown’s gondola has been ridden 17 million times, the cableway itself has completed more than two million laps and 52% of all visitors to Queenstown board the gondola.
Skyline is preparing to upgrade its existing 30-year-old fleet of gondola cars with a state-of-the-art 10-seat gondola, brand new cableway, new base terminal and expansion of the Gondola complex, expected to open in 2020.
Back in 1966, the founders of the bold new tourism venture - Hylton Hensman, Jon Dumble and Cliff Broad - decided to create better public access to the newly-built Skyline Chalet by constructing an aerial gondola up Bob’s Peak.
The road to opening day was long and not without challenges: Hylton single-handedly chopped down many of the pine trees to make way for the towers, there were major issues importing the gondola equipment from overseas and battles with the Queenstown Borough Council and Government were protracted and difficult.
However, once open the attraction quickly proved its worth and visitor numbers grew year on year. Skyline Queenstown has hosted famous faces over the years including mountaineering legend Sir Edmund Hillary in 1969, former United States President Bill Clinton in 1999, and in recent years, visiting music superstars like Ed Sheeran and UB40.
Hensman, who also founded Skyline’s world-famous Luge 30 years ago, resigned as Skyline Enterprises Chairman in 1976. He was replaced by Barry Thomas, who helped take the company to new heights including expanding into global markets and diversifying into other tourism and property businesses.
Hensman’s son Grant, a current director of the board, attributes Skyline’s success to its dedicated staff over the past 50 years and a mutual commitment to new technology and innovation.
He explains “the company owes a great deal, not just to the founders and the directors, but also to management and staff. The improvement of our products over the years is very much a collective effort and I would certainly like to acknowledge that.”
Skyline’s milestone has been recognised by Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
TNZ Chief Executive Stephen England-Hall comments “as we congratulate Skyline Queenstown on providing world-class adventure for 50 years, we welcome the company’s ambitious expansion plans that will include one of the world’s most advanced gondolas, ensuring visitors continue to enjoy an exceptional and exhilarating experience long into the future.”
TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts added “50 years and still leading the way in providing world-class visitor experiences, continually updating its product offerings and not being content to rest on its laurels – what a fantastic achievement.
“Congratulations Skyline Queenstown. You are an inspirational example to New Zealand’s tourism industry.”
The anniversary was marked on Saturday (18th November) with a ‘Fifty Years of Fun’ community day.
Images: Skyline Queenstown in operation (top) and its planned new gondola (below).
2nd November 2016 - SKYLINE ENTERPRISES APPOINTS SARAH OTTREY TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS
14th September 2016 - SKYLINE ENTERPRISES MOVES FORWARD WITH PLAN FOR FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER GONDOLA
3rd June 2016 - SKYLINE QUEENSTOWN ANNOUNCES MAJOR DEVELOPMENT PLANS
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