Hobbiton announced on Saturday that more than 240 staff could soon be made redundant. Image: Hobbiton Tours
The Government needs to act fast if it wants to prevent thousands of tourism workers from joining the dole queue, says the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand.
TECNZ’s chief executive, Lynda Keene said the Government’s decision to close the border and discourage domestic travel to combat the spread of Covid-19 marked the end of many tourism operators.
“Tourism businesses are dying, it’s carnage out there,” said Keene.
“Businesses that have spent decades and generations building up their businesses that provide jobs in regional economies, for real families, are in real pain. This is real. This is personal. Mortgages and rent are real, having enough money to pay food for families to survive is real. The tourism and hospitality sector needs Government to step up and step up now.”
Keene said the Government’s $12.1bn support package announced last week failed to support larger tourism operators, with some of those businesses starting to shed staff.
“We are urging government to ‘fast-track’ within 48 hours the delivery of an adequate financial survival package,” she said.
“Please do not insult businesses by saying go to your bank first, look at your balance sheet second and put a survival plan in place. These are smart and innovative businesses. They did that on day one, seven weeks ago, when at first this was a China market issue.”
Keene called on the Government to cover 70% of wage bills for businesses of more than 20 workers for 11 weeks.
“That will get the business to the start of winter and provide time to make real decisions, not panic decisions,” she said.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa said the government should look at the job support measures announced by the UK last week, which included interest-free business loans and deferred VAT payments.
The UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme covers 80% of the wages of staff who are not working but are kept on payroll, rather than being laid off. Wages were backdated to 1 March, for an initial three-month period.
TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said the New Zealand Government’s $12.1bn package announced last Tuesday would help keep some workers in jobs but “tens of thousands” faced redundancy.
“Tourism businesses across New Zealand have no customers, no revenue and no choice but to send their loyal staff home,” said Roberts.
“With the Government advice [on Saturday] to avoid all non-essential domestic travel, the last few customers are disappearing for many tourism businesses, and they have no work for their staff.
“Every business I have spoken to wants to survive this crisis, but they need to go into ‘hibernation’ – cutting costs to a minimum while protecting their key assets, which includes their staff. There will come a time to start the recovery, and tourism operators will need their staff available and ready to get back to work. Those staff need to be able to feed their families in the meantime.”
The Government said last week that it would work with large businesses affected by the Covid-19 outbreak on a case-by-case basis.
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