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Haka Tours’ Eve Lawrence on the needless promotion of fear

8 Jul 2020  By Contributor

“I am absolutely exasperated” – Eve Lawrence, general manager of Haka Tours & ANZ Nature Tours, on the media’s coverage of the Covid-19 fallout, lack of support for the sector, and promoting fear.

Eve Lawrence

I am seriously dumbfounded by the utter lack of positivity in the media at the moment. From One News‘ School leavers forced to reconsider future career paths as industries struggle amid Covid-19the NZ Herald’s Heading for an overseas holiday? Don’t bank on free isolation stay, warns Jacinda Ardernand now Tourism Ticker’s Border opening may be years away, refocus on domestic – report’. I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely exasperated.

ASB’s analysis of free cross-border movement, while interesting and valid in that it presents another side to the argument, does not help with the current mood circulating in our country or the travel and tourism industry. It’s irresponsible of the media to be promoting fear across large swathes of the population, both in New Zealand and overseas, and it needs to stop.

There are far too many articles circulating that focus on the negative impact of Covid-19, which actively promote more negativity, not only in affected markets, but in the minds of travellers. What tourism, travel and business events need is media support. This could be in the form of positivity, promoting propensity to travel and also to put pressure on the need for a forward-thinking strategy to support the New Zealand economy and tourism outlook.

Globally (as of July 7th 2020), Covid-19 has infected 0.15% of the world’s population, and circa 0.0006% is currently infected. Some 0.007% have unfortunately lost their life and on top of that 80% of people that get Covid-19 only have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. To put this into perspective, 0.12% of the world’s population dies from cancer each year (9.56 million), that’s almost 18x the number of people that have lost their life due to Covid-19. The mortality rate for Covid-19 is currently 4.68%; the mortality rate for Ebola, for perspective, is approximately 83-90%, and for SARS it was 11%. Perspective, perspective, perspective!

Yes, some will argue that they are different diseases and also that our success is due to lockdown periods, however it’s also pertinent to remember that while many countries have had strict lockdown measures, many countries also haven’t. Couple that with the masses of BLM protests around the world and the percentages are still low. Yet we seem to have been surrounded in a blanket of fear that continues to engulf us from all sides. This should be about perspective, giving people a realistic view of the statistics. I haven’t seen a single article around this in New Zealand since Covid-19 began.

There should be a strategy, a plan, coming from those whose role it is to protect not only this country’s health, but also it’s economy. This should be backed up by media support and coverage promoting all sides of the pandemic and all the data/statistics. Instead the media constantly rattles off alarming increases in Covid numbers, promotes panic purchasing and now is actively vilifying industries that are struggling. Of course we’re going to experience a lull, when global travel has all but stopped. How about instead of giving us brief pockets of hope, the media actively seek to publish positive articles on suggestions around what we could do to open borders safely, who we could open them up to, who is doing well and why. And when something does get posted regarding new cases or statistics, how about giving us some perspective on the matter.

Behind the scenes, I am seeing continued positivity from the travel sector – an indication that recovery is coming. At Haka Tours & ANZ Nature Tours, we’ve had a huge uptake in agents wanting to sell our tours and some good traction from customers on purchasing travel products. I know plenty of other tourism businesses across a wide genre that are also seeing good traction. A strategy with subsequent media support needs to be presented. I understand the requirement of the media to present a balanced view, however, most of these pieces are unsubstantiated reports based on a person or a self-proclaimed expert’s ‘best guess’, or they’re based on opinion. I’m all for one of those as you’ve probably noticed, but not at the expense of facts or perspective.

All this negativity is affecting our mental health and the outlook for our businesses; it’s doing more harm than good to the economy and it honestly needs to change. I suggest we look forward to what the future holds – tourism and travel will recover, it will become more sustainable, the environment, community and culture will be a key focus and we will move forward from this in a positive way. Let’s put some pressure on the push for a trans-Tasman and Pacific Island bubble and get the recovery going in the right direction!

International visitors will return to New Zealand. But only if they are instilled with the positivity and the confidence to do so.


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