Overseas travel agents are hoping for a resumption of international travel come October-November 2020, says Tourism Export Council NZ chair Anna Black.
Speaking on TECNZ’s industry webinar Tourism Temperature on Tuesday afternoon, Black said a “wait-and-see” mentality still persisted.
“The million dollar question is whether the world waits for a vaccine to restart international travel or whether a world short of a vaccine will start travelling with stringent measures in place,” she said.
“If there is self-isolation on arrival in New Zealand, that just won’t work for the international leisure traveller or corporate traveller.”
Black added there was still good interest from agents, but it was potential travellers who needed convincing.
“New Zealand has been well perceived by agents as doing the right things and most agents we have spoke to have not lost any forward bookings for New Zealand. However, they’ve had cancellations for other destinations where social distancing and health care isn’t as good as New Zealand is perceived to be.”
Black said most ITO bookings for May had been pushed to October and November, and ITOs were working on backing those up for February or March in case borders opened after Christmas, rather than in spring.
“There is a lot of booking and rebooking as the general opinion out there changes. So we just need a better indication of when our borders might be open and to whom,” she said.
Sentiment by destination
The United States
The US was in a holding mode with no decisions made by the authorities.
“We’ve seen how [President Donald] Trump is handling things. Every state has its own agenda with some collaborating, but there are still many mixed messages on when the borders will be reopened,” Black said.
“We are seeing bookings for early January so it does give us an indication consumers are thinking that later this year will be okay for travelling. There is still a genuine need and wish for travel, it’s just there are so many questions around social distancing and how this will work.”
UK and Europe
New enquiries out of the UK and Europe were very slow but planning continued for 2021 and 22.
“Generally we’ve seen no big cancellations yet for late 2020 bookings so again it’s a wait-and-see attitude for the latter part of this year.”
There was no sign of outbound travel from China yet. Promotion of travel and tourism was restricted in China, so only internal travel – inter-provincially and domestic – would be happening until at least the end of 2020.
“The New Zealand border was closed to Chinese nationals on 3 February so it will help if the border is opened or softly opened with proper border screening or special measures in place,” Black said.
“No agents are seeing enquiries for travel anywhere, whether domestically within India or internationally, and India extended its lockdown for another two weeks just after Easter. But agents are optimistic about business by October, as long as the airlines are available and the borders are open,” she said.
Agents were upskilling on destinations and ITOs were doing training webinars on free independent travellers and groups.
South East Asia
“A few of the key South East Asia countries are badly affected, with numbers of Covid-19 not showing a slowdown. No sign of forward enquiries for at least the next three months or more, but most again are on a wait-and-see scenario, especially on when respective countries’ borders might open for airlines to start flying in, before planning and advertising for the future.”
South and Latin America
Black said Latam Airlines recently offering special fares between September and November was a sign they were hopeful borders would open by then.
“Like the rest of the world, everything is on hold in South America while they wait for more of an idea. Mexico is much the same but there is definitely some activity similar to the US markets where quotes and bookings have been coming in for late 2020 onwards,” she said.
“We expect Air New Zealand will update us by the end of May for their plans post 30 June, and the feeling we get is that South America, especially Chile and Argentina, may come back quicker than the U.S and UK Europe.”
TECNZ’s industry webinar Tourism Temperature broadcast Tuesday 21 April:
15 Jun 2020 TECNZ maps return to pre-Covid arrivals
23 Apr 2020 2020 TECNZ Conference cancelled
28 Nov 2019 TECNZ’s Chen presents Tiaki at ATEC
29 Oct 2019 TECNZ CEO Judy Chen to leave in Jan