New Zealand

Tourism operators – “reserves and resolve fast running out”

Industry the “overlooked casualty of the pandemic”

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) says the slight easing of border restrictions for some international travellers is a small step in the right direction but tourism operators need more certainty about the Government’s plans for reconnecting New Zealand with the world.

TIA chief executive, Chris Roberts says tourism operators are desperate to know when they will get access to their offshore customers again.

The NZ Government has maintained its stance on returning New Zealanders and visa holders as its first priority with COVID-19 Minister, Chris Hipkins describing international manuhiri (guests) as “more of a challenge” and saying that the government has not worked through the complexities yet.

“New Zealand’s once thriving tourism industry continues to be the overlooked casualty of the pandemic,” Mr Roberts said.

“It’s now 21 months since the first border restrictions were put in place,” he said.

“International visitor spend was previously worth $48 million a day, and the cumulative loss since we closed our borders now exceeds $25 billion.”

Mr Roberts said the lifting of the iconic Lakeland Queen paddle-driven vessel from Lake Rotorua and the loss of 15 jobs is just one sad example of the impact on tourism businesses.

“Given the severity of the crisis, the resilience of tourism operators has been phenomenal. Some have been forced to close but the majority are hanging on. However, reserves and resolve are running out,” he said.

“Every tourism operator is hoping for a good Kiwi summer but the uncertainty over whether New Zealanders will be able to travel around the country is impacting on bookings.

“Some operators will not make it to Christmas and others may not earn enough over the summer season to carry on.

“Tourism operators are ready and willing to work with the Government to sort out the ‘complexities’ so we can safely welcome international visitors and agree a likely timeline. Until then, targeted support to help tourism operators survive until our borders reopen needs to be seriously considered.”

The option of self-isolation at home will be made available to increasing numbers of fully vaccinated travellers in the first quarter of 2022.

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