New Zealand

Mental health challenges for New Zealand tourism operators

The pandemic is having a detrimental effect for many business owners.

After 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, many New Zealand businesses are feeling the sting of border closures and revenue losses. 

A recent survey conducted by Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) in July and August revealed a significant rise in mental health challenges among tourism operators.

Three-quarters of respondents reported feeling concerned for their personal health and well-being, with 9 percent saying that they were very concerned. Respondents said that stress, uncertainty and financial worries were taking a toll on mental health. 

The results of the mental health survey were released by Chris Roberts, chief executive at TIA, during an industry webinar.

“The findings of this survey are sobering,” Mr Roberts said. “TIA has survey members regularly through 2020 and 2021, but this is the first time we have specifically asked about health and well-being.”

According to Mr Roberts, New Zealand tourism operators are generally understanding of the role of lockdowns in keeping the country safe from COVID-19 outbreaks. Still, many tourism and hospitality businesses are struggling with pandemic-related losses, with continued restrictions making it difficult to recover. 

“With the increasing likelihood of another summer with borders closed, some operators are close to breaking point,” said Mr Roberts. 

Businesses have missed out on revenue from international guests, and current restrictions have also put a stop to domestic tourism, only adding to financial strain. 

Mr Roberts said: “[Tourism operators] are part of an industry that was the first be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to recover.” 

Overall, the TIA survey found that that turnover was down 48 percent for tourism businesses, and 37 percent of jobs had been lost since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Several respondents said that their businesses would cease operation within the next six months, while many more reported that their businesses would be struggling. 

However, there is hope for long-term goals, with 70 of respondents stating that they wee confident their businesses would again flourish in five years time. While New Zealand lockdowns continue to place a heavy mental health burden on tourism providers, a brighter future is on the horizon for the industry. 

“We are eagerly looking forward to the day when we can all enjoy the freedom to travel again,” said Mr Roberts. “The most useful things we can all do right now is regularly check in on each other and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.” 

The full survey report can be found on the TIA website

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