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Operators to ERC: Don’t write international visitors out of the equation

21 May 2020  By Staff Reporter | | @tourismticker

 Some of the country’s top operators appeared before the ERC yesterday

Tourism operators geared towards overseas travellers have urged the Government not to write international visitors out of the future of the sector.

Appearing before the Epidemic Response Committee yesterday, operators comprising Totally Tourism’s Mark Quickfall, Over the Top’s Louisa Patterson and Volcanic Air Safari’s Tim Barrow made the case for Government assistance so operators would be ready to throw open their doors when borders reopen.

Patterson, who represented a group of 39 general aviation businesses running fixed wing and helicopter tourism operations, said 80% of this group’s business was international and the cost to hibernate their highly regulated operations until that market returned was not sustainable.

On top of the financial cost, she said the loss of expertise was also a major threat to the GA sector.

“If our 39 companies are forced to hibernate, we will be forced to mothball aircraft and layoff experienced personnel; we will lose decades of experience and the industry will fall.”

Barrow added that this would not only mean the iconic aviation experiences international visitors expect when they come to NZ would not be available, but it would also affect crucial support for other parts of the sector.

“We work with accommodation providers and other iconic NZ-owned regional tourism operators to offer packaged itineraries. Without the aviation link in the chain many of these business will either not be able to deliver their product or attract visitors for extended room night stays and that is important.”

He said the wage subsidy and extension had been “fantastic in allowing the company to take stock”, however the reality was the market for aviation businesses “is predominantly and always will be international”.

“We’ll work hard to adapt as much as we can, but domestic tourism will never completely fill the void left by Covid-19, so I, and we as the industry, ask that international tourism not be written out of our future.”

Barrow said opening the border with Australian was extremely important and would provide some sort of lifeline, but certainty was needed around the timing.

“It won’t be the silver bullet for our industry, but it will help knowing when that border will open… so we can get into that market and start educating people about what is available in NZ.”

This kind of messaging was also required with the international market, Barrow said.

“Internationally, my concern is [around us] telling people the international border may not be open for a long time. Tourism is a team sport, we rely on a food chain of agents across the world – inbound tour operators, wholesale and retail agents.

“If we tell those wholesale agents in the US and the UK that we are not going to be open for business for 18 months or two years, we are going to lose a huge amount of knowledge in terms of selling NZ.

“We are a small destination, that would hurt this industry, it would be a fatal blow. We need to send a signal to that international industry that we are here and ready to go, and will get those borders open as soon as we safely can.”

Queenstown-based Quickfall argued that any support that the former $41bn tourism industry received from the Government would be “repaid repeatedly with export-orientated revenue as we move forward.”

On top of the financial contribution made by the tourism industry, it also provided essential cultural exchanges that connect NZ to the world, he said.

“It is simply too important to leave it to fail – borders will reopen and international tourism will return. Overall the NZ tourism experience is world class, however, it is a fact that unless borders open soon our tourism operators will not survive regardless of whether we have re-imagined, reinvented or pivoted.”


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