Tourism is New Zealand’s largest export earner and is the sector that has been most affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Rather than picking favourites, we need to ask what can be done.
The Government’s approach has been to pick winners with its Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. While recipients are no doubt grateful for the money received, the effect of it is minor and largely concentrated on well recognised operators and particularly those where politicians have had their photos taken.
What the tourism industry needs is tourists, and the certainty of getting them. The best thing the Government can do for the industry is to set clear rules of the game so that New Zealand can safely reconnect with the rest of the world. We should start by asking what can be done, rather than imposing blanket restrictions on people entering the country.
There are already opportunities for high value tourism operators to bring in and isolate tourists for the required quarantine period before allowing them to travel more widely. There are many around today’s chaotic world who would take advantage of these opportunities if the Government was willing to work with operators to allow them to.
WHAT ACT WOULD DO
Ensure Safe and Secure Borders
The way to save the industry is by opening the border to international markets as quickly and as safely as possible. Opening the border to safe Australian States is an example of low-hanging fruit that the Government has been unwilling to pick.
ACT’s Wellbeing Approach to Covid-19 would allow people and money to cross the border while stopping the virus. This includes:
- A single multi-disciplinary, public and private sector Epidemic Response Unit, modelled on Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre.
- Government as a referee, not a player in the game, setting standards and enforcing them but allowing the private sector to meet them. We should use the private sector to supplement the MIQ system like we do with health care – you should be able to ‘go private’ for your isolation period:
- Allow high-value foreign tourists through this system.
- Essential staff can pay extra for hotel rooms with home-office setups so they can work through their two-week period.
- Managing the dangers of Covid with a risk weighted approach. We should treat tourists from countries without Covid and with high quality public health systems (e.g. Taiwan) differently from how we treat those from Covid-ridden countries or those with poor public health. For instance, there might be shorter quarantine times for better tested and lower risk tourists.
Most importantly, ACT’s approach reflects a change of attitude. We should allow practices that are safe and allow businesses to demonstrate that they can be safe, rather than imposing a Government monopoly.
Lift Restrictions that Hold Tourism Back
DOC needs a mandate to encourage private sector tourism on the conversation estate, not restrict it. Leases could fund conservation projects, but presently we are not getting full value out of the DOC estate and DOC is not getting full value out of tourism.
Tourism needs a flexible labour market, but the current Government’s Employment laws will make it harder for the industry to employ people. ACT would have a three-year moratorium on increasing the minimum wage and bring back 90-day trials for all businesses.
Tax Cuts to Boost the Tourism Sector
ACT would abolish the $35 International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy, and return the proceeds to tourism business, on the basis of their GST receipts in 2019.
ACT would ban councils from using the rating system to impose a hotel bed tax. This provision has been unfairly and destructively imposed on the sector in the case of Auckland. It is a narrow tax imposed on tourism that amounts to a revenue grab by councils, that still hangs over other regions.