It is a reassuring sign that the industry can still use COVID crisis time to commit to sustainable changes for the betterment of the environment, industry, and economy.
TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts said: “Never before have we looked so closely around us at what is truly important. The global pandemic has shown how quickly we can and need to adapt. When we think about our future, resilience and adaptation are absolutely what we need to consider.”
Alongside our focus on getting tourism businesses and people through the COVID-19 crisis, it remains important to consider the future and be ambitious for what we can achieve.
“Now more than ever, we need to act to become sustainable – as businesses, as an industry, as a country. Increasingly, our communities and visitors have expectations that our industry will act sustainably. We have made good progress in recent years and now is the time to redouble our efforts.”
Mr Roberts also says a commitment to sustainability means not only driving excellent environmental practices, but also ensuring benefits to the community, visitors and New Zealand’s economy. He reassures that with the tourism industry profoundly impacted by COVID-19 and the closure of our borders, TIA is fully committed to ensuring that the momentum towards a sustainable industry is maintained.
He said: “We are firmly of the view that sustainable businesses will be best placed to emerge strongly as and when the industry recovers.”
So, what does the refreshed New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment-He Kupu Taurangi Kia Toitū Ai Te Tāpoitanga (TSC ) say?
It sets out 12 commitments and outlines practical actions so all businesses can play their part. Over 1400 tourism businesses have signed up since its launch in November 2017.
Key features of the TSC are the tools, resources and other support that sit behind it, including an online sustainability assessment tool. The 12 Commitments outlined in the TSC make good business sense and many case studies show financial as well as social and environmental benefits.
The 12 Commitments are:
- Resilience: We focus on long term business performance and resilience.
- Investment: We invest to create value, opportunities and to drive sustainable practices.
- Innovation: We innovate to solve problems, create new ways to do things and increase productivity.
- Visitor Satisfaction: We strive to always meet or exceed visitor expectations.
- Culture and Heritage: We embrace Aotearoa New Zealand’s culture and heritage as part of delivering a unique and authentic visitor experience.
- Visitor Engagement: We engage with visitors about how to be great travellers within Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Employer of Choice: We attract, support and develop the workforce we need to flourish and succeed.
- Community Engagement: We actively and positively engage with the communities in which we operate, taking a leadership role to champion causes that are important to the community.
- Sustainable Supply Chains: We have socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains.
- Restoring Nature: We contribute to protecting and enhancing Aotearoa New Zealand’s environment, including water, biodiversity, landscapes and clean air.
- Carbon Reduction: We act urgently to contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand’s transition to a net zero carbon economy.
- Eliminating Waste: We take responsibility for the entire life cycle of products and services we use and ultimately eliminate the waste associated with these.
The TSC refresh has been developed with the support of TIA members, including Ziptrek Ecotours Executive Director Trent Yeo, who says: “The TSC is in my opinion the basis for which our communities will rally around us – and at this time, we need all the support we can get.”
Mr Roberts explains the purpose of the refresh is to strengthen the commitments, align them with national and international sustainability frameworks and the New Zealand-Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy, and identify key objectives to help tourism businesses achieve each commitment.
He adds: “Businesses don’t need to be already meeting every commitment. Sustainability is a journey and the important thing is to get started and make progress. But we firmly believe that through our individual actions, collectively New Zealand can lead the world in sustainable tourism.”
TIA also calls for true partnership for tourism recovery
When the new Government is elected, tourism operators will be looking for a clear signal that it is willing to work in close partnership on rebuilding the industry, says Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
Mr Roberts says: “Tourism was the first industry to be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to recover. We need a public sector that works with the tourism industry to address immediate needs and achieve long-term aspirations. All parts of Government must understand their impact on tourism and the need to steer the waka in the same direction. Leadership and direction have to come from the top.”
According to Mr Roberts TIA’s Tourism Election 2020 Action Plan identifies ‘Partnership’ as one of the six categories where action will be required from the incoming Government. It has listed 11 action points in this category.
He said: “The new Government’s first action to demonstrate support for the revitalisation of our industry must be to allocate the Tourism portfolio to a senior Minister. The portfolio has been held by the Prime Minister or a front bench MP since 2008, reflecting its importance to New Zealand’s economy. The need for an Associate Minister is also obvious, to stay across all the issues and help manage the workload.”
TIA wants the Tourism Recovery Ministers’ Group, set up by the current Government, to continue after the election.
The association will also take a close interest in the progress of the Tourism Futures Taskforce.
“The Taskforce is a creation of Government but has private sector input. It must listen and take guidance from a wide range of sectors and interests,” Mr Roberts says.
TIA is in no doubt that further direct financial support for tourism businesses will be needed. But the support is not just about money. The incoming Government must commit to providing the policy settings to enable the fastest recovery possible, along with easing international travel restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.
Looking beyond immediate needs, the industry wants a Government that will work with it to identify national tourism infrastructure priorities and include these in its infrastructure strategies.
“Prior to the pandemic, we had identified that the growth in visitor numbers was putting pressure on some communities, mainly because of a lack of infrastructure. We now have a never to be repeated opportunity to plan for a well-supported, sustainable tourism industry, and we must not miss this chance,” he says.
“Other countries are grasping the opportunity. For example, the West Australian Government has announced a AUD$230 million investment in upgrading tourism infrastructure. Here, the International Visitor Levy account has close to $45 million in unspent funds, collected pre-COVID. The last projects supported by the IVL were announced back in August 2019. This is the time to be making investments in infrastructure.”
TIA will call on the new Government to rule out any new tourism taxes.
“Our industry has taken a battering and needs a strong helping hand to get back up off the canvas. Tourism businesses are in no position to bear any extra taxes.”
For more details, read Mr Roberts’ blog on this topic. More Tourism Election 2020 Action Plan information can be found online here.