The first official statistics measuring the impact of the pandemic on Aotearoa New Zealand’s tourism industry fully underline the ruinous effect COVID has had on people’s lives and livelihoods.
The alarming figures released by the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) for the year ended March 2021, show that a third of people employed in tourism have gone.
This represents a loss of 72,285 people from the industry, equivalent to almost the entire population of Palmerston North and includes 6738 or 25 percent of tourism ‘working proprietors’
The one bright spot, domestic tourism spending grew by 2.6 percent compared to the period before the pandemic, but this did little to offset a massive 91.5 percent decline in international visitor spend to just $1.5 billion, compared to the pre-pandemic annual spend of $17.5 billion.
Total tourism expenditure (international and domestic) for the year to March 2021 was $26.1 billion, down 37.3 percent on the previous year.
This represents a $15.6 billion loss to the New Zealand economy, including a drop of $1.7 billion in GST returns to the government from international visitors.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive, Chris Roberts while the numbers come as little surprise, they reinforce the catastrophic impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“This is the first time we have been able to accurately measure the impact of COVID-19 on our industry,” he said.
“The one bright spot in the data is a small increase in domestic tourism spend and operators are incredibly grateful to New Zealanders for still supporting them.”
The TSA is the official annual measurement of the New Zealand tourism industry. It includes measures of tourism spend by international and domestic visitors, the number of people employed through tourism, tourism’s share of export earnings and its contribution to New Zealand’s GDP.
The figures cover a 12-month period that started with closed borders and later saw a country-wide lockdown, followed by regional restrictions.