Tour operators warn many in their sector are hanging by a thread and without urgent Government financial support more failures are likely in the next three to six months.
They also say it could take a decade for tourism for long haul travellers to return if Australia opens its borders before this country.
The Tourism Export Council says inbound tour operators have had no income since the country’s borders were closed early last year and have been the most affected sector across the international tourism industry.
”’They are hanging by a thread. We cannot understate how serious the future of New Zealand’s international visitor economy is. Without financial support and targeted assistance in 2021, inbound tourist operators and visitor product and experiences will be forced to close.”
Before Covid, inbound tour operators contributed more than half of the $17.2 billion in export receipts earned by New Zealand’s tourism sector, said chief executive Lynda Keene.
The trade association, before the pandemic, represented the interests of 71 inbound operators and 241 tourism businesses involved with bringing in and hosting international visitors.
In a submission to government ministers in new portfolios, the council says an additional
$200m restart package is needed for businesses that pre-Covid generated 70 per cent or more of their revenue from international visitation.
Ways to fund the support package include a 2021 Budget appropriation, use of unallocated international visitor levy fees collected in 2019-2020 or reallocation of any $400m strategic tourism assets protection programme that is not needed by businesses.
In the submission Keene says it is critical New Zealand reopens its border around the same time as Australia.
”If Australia opens and NZ’s border remains closed, there is a high risk long-haul travellers will not return to Oceania for another five to 10 years,” the document prepared for a range of ministers says.
“It is important a transtasman tourism bubble is launched this year. Our members want to work with Tourism Minister Stuart Nash and his cabinet colleagues to develop a recovery plan linked to the rollout of vaccines so we can make it through 2021, and be a part of New Zealand’s economic recovery.”
Keene said the management of Covid’s economic impacts also affects the country’s reputation, so clear and consistent guidance from Government on that.
”If New Zealand’s tourism offering is diminished with closure of businesses, there is potential it could affect the country’s food and wine and other produce sectors that form part of the NZ Inc. export proposition.”
The inbound sector has operated for more than 50 years without government assistance.
She said it was the first time it had asked for financial support to protect NZ’s future international export earnings.
Inbound tourism operators bring in 55 per cent of all international arrivals to New Zealand and contribute $9.46bof total international spend NZ of $17.2b. It was vital due to long-lead times for travellers that the operators have experienced staff to reignite bookings in the system.
Keene said the submission that 26 ITOs have been offered loans, however, given there is no opportunity to generate revenue until the border is reopened, her organisation wants those to be converted to grants so ITOs remain operational with staff.
“We cannot understate how serious the future of NZ’s international visitor economy is. Without financial support in 2021, ITOs and visitor product and experiences (operators) will be forced to close.” She said New Zealand’s Covid-19 management had enhanced New Zealand’s global reputation.
”We need to ensure the quality and world-class reputation as a desired visitor destination is matched with having those tourism businesses that helped build the reputation, still operating.”
The industry is ready to welcome back international visitors with its new Tourism Trade Checklist and Covid-ready plans.
Frontline tourism and hospitality staff need to be vaccinated as soon as possible to meet the requirements of health and safety legislation.
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