Scenic Hotel Group has put four of West Coast properties into extended hibernation, blaming the loss of international tourists and uncertainty around a two-way travel bubble with Australia.
The group’s managing director Brendan Taylor said the company had run out of options after nearly a year of closed borders.
He said efforts to stimulate the domestic market had not made up for the loss of international visitors.
The move will cost the independently owned grouparound $2 million a year but was aimed at helping others on the Coast.
”This will allow smaller operators who do not have the strength of a National Group to take up what tourism dollars are left.”
Scenic has already wound back operations and instead of employing up to 180 staff at this time of the year it was down to 40.
It was talking to them about possible redeployment.
Scenic is the largest accommodation provider in the “Glacier Country” region and says the extended hibernation could last at least 12-18 months or until there is certainty of enabling some form of international travel to the region.
This will be largely dependent on the ability to welcome back the high-yielding North American and European markets, together with mainstay tourism from Australia.
“It is however unlikely that enabling just a single market will facilitate the type of market regeneration needed for this region. What the region needs is certainty of when, where and how international tourism will return to the West Coast,” said Taylor.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today work on a two-way bubble with Australia is continuing.
The Government was hoping to have it running by the end of March but Covid outbreaks have thrown that into doubt and there appears little chance of international travel approaching a return to normal until next year.
The West Coast is heavily dependent on overseas visitors and last week Tourism Minister Stuart Nash and local MP Damien O’Connor were promising little to help hard-hit communities.
Taylor said Glacier Country attracted big spenders from countries, particularly North America.
”Together with the long-haul backpacker seeking to tick off some serious bucket list items, this traveller has been the mainstay of tourism in the region.”
The group has a total of 17 hotels throughout the country and on the West Coast will see out the current season and will start to lock its operations down at the traditional end of season in May.
Its property at Haast will remain open.
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