Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) says the Department of Conservation’s announcement to end concession activity fee waivers on December 31 may well lead to tourism operators choosing to withdraw some of their products, such as helicopter tours, and for some it could mean the end of the line.
TIA chief executive, Chris Roberts said the decision would impact on those operators relying on the international market have held on for as long as possible and can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But for some, he said, this could be the final nail in the coffin.
In May 2020, in the first Government support package for tourism businesses impacted by the pandemic, the Department of Conservation received a $25m allowance to allow it to waive concession activity fees for 12 months.
In May 2021, this waiver was extended for another six months, to December. These were seen as welcome measures which assisted some of the 1000 concessionaires to adjust their prices for a solely domestic market.
But TIA says the pressure on those concessionaires remains just as severe now, with current restrictions reducing domestic visitors, on top of continued closed borders.
TIA wrote to Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allen in September asking for the fee waiver to be extended for another six months but has not received a reply.
In his letter to the minister, Mr Roberts wrote that it was in the best interest of the Department of Conservation and the Government to recognise that tourism operators who have long worked with the department to manage visitors on the conservation estate are able to survive, to contribute those concession fees for many years to come.
“The concession fee relief needs to continue at least until our borders are open to our main markets of Australia, China and USA. This is the approach taken by Government-owned Qualmark, which will remain free of charge until those three markets return.”
“When the acting minister announced the first waiver extension, she said the waiver will be reviewed again later this year to either confirm the reinstatement of fees on January 1 2022, or provide a further waiver if extraordinary circumstances warrant it.
“TIA says we are still in extraordinary times and a further waiver is absolutely justified.”