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Regional lockdown tactic welcomed but tourism on tenterhooks

13 Aug 2020  By Shannon Williams | | @tourismticker

A new regional approach to lockdown measures introduced by the Government at midday Wednesday was a sensible decision, says Regional Tourism New Zealand’s Charlie Ives.

Auckland from Wellsford in the north to Pukekohe in the south moved to Covid-19 alert level 3 at 12pm yesterday with the rest of the country shifting to level 2 at the same time.

Charlie Ives

“It makes the best sense as far as we’re concerned,” Ives told the Ticker.

“Until it becomes clearer, it seems at this stage that it is a localised outbreak, but obviously if it goes further the Government can take a much wider view of it, and look at the measures they need to take to contain it further.”

Ives said the Government was doing the correct thing in terms of the health response.

“I mean, here we go again, right? It is what it is. As to where that leads us from here is anybody’s guess. Is it going to be a continuation of lockdown or will three days be enough? It’s crystal ball gazing isn’t it.”

He said a second full lockdown would be bad news for many tourism operators.

“If you look at the general business outlook, operators are still recovering from the first lockdown, and some are in a relatively fragile position, so it would be something that seriously impacts their business if it goes further than what it is.”

Amy Robens, executive director of the New Zealand Hotel Owners Association, said while hotels were well-prepared to move to levels 3 and 2 it was still a big hit for Auckland.

Amy Robens

“This latest lockdown in Auckland is a massive blow for hotels there because it will impact on the domestic tourism market, which was assisting us to some extent but has now come to a standstill,” Robens said.

“We are really hoping for a targeted extension to the wage subsidy or some additional support from the tourism minister. They have always said they would monitor the situation and provide additional support if required. Now is the time to really look at tailored support for hotels.”

However, Robens said the Government’s decision to lock down Auckland and move the rest of the country to level 2 was a responsible decision.

“You only have to look at Australia or other parts of the globe where Covid was stamped out and under control and then there was a second outbreak.”

Lisa Hopkins, chief executive at Conventions & Incentives New Zealand, said the news of community transmission in Auckland was disappointing.

“However we are well-prepared and we always knew we needed to maintain vigilance. We support the Government’s quick response,” she said.

“This is not a time to panic, we know exactly what we need to do and we are well-positioned to come back quickly once restrictions are lifted.”

Lisa Hopkins

While Auckland was under level 3, the remainder of the country was still at level 2 where the overall cap for events remained at 100, with multiple groups of 100 allowed provided they were in separate defined spaces.

“Our members are aware of the need to continue to be vigilant, and ensure the measures put in place since March are still maintained, as part of standard operating process and best practice,” Hopkins said.

New Zealand Events Association general manager Ségolène de Fontenay said the regional approach in response to the outbreak was advantageous.

“Winter Games has just started but had a contingency plan in place for how to operate under alert level 2,” she said.

“XPO in Auckland was about to start to deliver its first show today of 11 shows in the next three months. Sol3 Mio concert at Spark Arena postponed this evening and the sold out rugby match at Eden Park on Sunday is awaiting news of what happens after midnight Friday.”

de Fontenay said the association was waiting on further updates from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that could be shared with events professionals.

Lynda Keene, chief executive at Tourism Export Council NZ, was hoping for a quick resolution to the new outbreak.

Lynda Keene

“Hopefully the situation in Auckland can be resolved quickly and the Rotorua community and tourism businesses are not drawn into a level 3 alert status after the 72 hour window of investigation is up,” she said.

“If Rotorua, or New Zealand, were to shift to level 3 or 4 after midnight on Friday, that would really be bad news. If this happened it would literally shatter any prospect of tourism businesses getting back on the road to recover in 2020 or possibly 2021.“

Keene called on the Government to provide grant funding for inbound tour operators to “help them retain critical staff to keep managing forward bookings in the system for 2020-2022”.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said Auckland’s shift to level 3 was another hit for the already struggling hospitality industry.

She said if the lockdown was extended past midnight Friday, “bars will have to pour their kegs down the drain and restaurants will be working out what fresh produce can be saved – it’s not as simple as turning the lights off and locking the doors”.

White added that extending the lockdown would “likely mark the end for some operators”.

“The Government must provide urgent relief packages and allocate some funding from its $14bn Covid Response and Recovery Fund to the hospitality sector.”


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