Friday, 19 March 2021

When will tourism’s long hibernation be over?


“What the tourism industry is facing is all about a policy choice from Government, how and when to open the border to Australia and then other relatively safe countries – one it isn’t yet able to have a grown up conversation about,” says ACT Tourism spokesperson Dr James McDowall.

“It’s frankly pretty insulting for the industry to be told by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash that his priority for this year is to help them make it ‘easier to hibernate’ their firms and then start them up again.

“They’re already hibernating, Minister, and they know a lot more about starting up their businesses than your Government – they just need customers.

“Also concerning is the Minister’s agenda of ‘re-shaping tourism’ while the borders are closed.

“Doing that seems to mean abandoning inbound tourism operators (ITOs) and bankrupting small businesses in a sector that normally brings more than $17 billion a year to the New Zealand economy from offshore.

“By talking up the Wage Subsidy scheme and the 2020 tourism recovery package, which was about picking a few winners for the sake of photo ops, the Minister ignores the fact that tourism operators have effectively been subjected to a lockdown since March 2020.

“This is 2021, Minister, and your brief mention of potential targeted support was woefully light on detail.

“The risk now is that once the border reopens, overseas operators will fill the void left by Kiwi-owned businesses going under, potentially sending billions of dollars offshore.

“Also missing from today’s speech was any real plan on how New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccination programme will affect tourism and the border as a whole, which is a disservice to those who depend on international visitors.

“Presumably that’s because the COVID-19 Response Minister and the Ministry of Health haven’t worked out that detail yet either.

“What we need to hear much more about also is how and when the Government will allow people into New Zealand from relatively safe countries, taking a risk-proportionate approach to COVID-19 that sees us rely on appropriate rules and effective tracking and tracing to isolate any outbreaks.

“These businesspeople don’t need to hear about how to hibernate their firms – they’ve done that already.”