Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Tourism Export Council says sector at tipping point

Unless firm plans for border re-opening are released in weeks, says the Tourism Export Council, this country risks being off the map for visitors for up to two years.

Members are at “tipping point”, and the group has written to Government ministers urging an announcement on what the plan is by November 1.

“It is absolutely critical for New Zealand to have any semblance of an international tourism offering that we can get an announcement,” says council chief executive Lynda Keene.

“Otherwise, New Zealand will be off the sell list for 12-24 months. Offshore wholesalers and agents (travel sellers) will simply sell other destinations that are ready to welcome back visitors.”

She says the situation is very serious. It was hoped the council’s International Tourism Recovery Plan 2022-2025 could be a “helpful guideline” for the Government’s Reconnecting to the World plan.

The council plan has the support and input from the Board of Airline Representatives, Auckland International Airport, Christchurch International Airport, NZ Māori Tourism, NZ Cruise Association and Business Events Industry Aotearoa.

“We acknowledge that some New Zealanders are hesitant about the reopening of NZ’s border to international visitors,” says Keene.

“However, to save jobs and support communities feeling the impact of no visitors and to ensure international tourism contributes again in a positive way economically, socially, culturally and environmentally in the future, it is important New Zealand takes the next step of reconnecting to the world.”

The international visitor industry was worth $48 million a day before Covid-19 and the Government collected $1.8 billion a year in GST alone.

Inbound tourism operators found the biggest frustration for offshore partners was the lack of a tangible plan with targets and timelines, which meant this country was no longer as desirable as it was earlier in the year.

“We are losing bookings as a result. Consumer confidence is waning,” says Keene.

All clients and agents overseas are pro-vaccination and support pre-entry conditions, within reason.

The council says government wage support for tourism during lockdowns or to stimulate the domestic market was appreciated by inbound tour operators, who had suffered from zero or very limited revenue since March 2020.

To stimulate the rebuild and safe return of international visitors, the council is requesting a third tranche of targeted tourism industry investment for international businesses.

Operators were holding bookings for key markets the United States and Canada, Australia, Germany, China, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. All of them had high levels of vaccination against Covid.

The council proposes the following border settings, allowing visitors to return:
• NZ reopens border once 80% of population is vaccinated (Nov 2021)
• No MIQ for international arrivals from key markets
• Quarantine-free travel for vaccinated visitors
• Health declaration passport to prove vaccination
• Negative test pre-travel to NZ
• Rapid antigen or lateral flow test for arrivals at border
• Use of contact tracing app linked to vaccination record
• Use of saliva testing if required in NZ

The council urges the return of visitors from Australia as early as December.

Comment on the submission has been sought from Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

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