8 Apr 2020

Tourism industry welcomes sector reboot plans amid Covid-19 disruptions

7:42 pm on 8 April 2020

The tourism industry is preparing for a shake-up after the government announced a reboot in the wake of Covid-19.

Chris Roberts the Chief Executive of Tourism Industry Aotearoa at the iSITE in Wellington. He is surrounded by New Zealand maps and tourist leaflets

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts. Photo: RNZ/Teresa Cowie

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says the project will re-imagine the way tourism is governed, marketed and how visitors are managed while becoming more sustainable.

It comes as the industry continues to hemorrhage staff and money after visitors dried up and the lockdown started.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said thousands of jobs and many businesses would be gone in the wake of Covid-19.

"We're going from an industry worth $42 billion a year to something less than half that. That's effectively going back 15 or 20 years in the growth of this industry all of a sudden," Roberts said.

"The industry has done very well in recent years to grow and to increase its contribution to the New Zealand economy, but all of that incredibly hard work's been undone."

He welcomed plans to reboot the tourism industry.

"We can make a better tourism industry in New Zealand, it can be world's most sustainable tourism industry, the most environmentally protective ... the one that listens to its communities better than any other tourism industry in the world. That's the opportunity we have right now, so let's take advantage of that opportunity and create something very special out of this crisis," Roberts said.

Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) will lead the project, which includes the Department of Conservation, MBIE, businesses and industry.

Its chief executive Stephen England-Hall said it was a rare opportunity to design the future of tourism with feedback from communities.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

There are two main focuses for the project.

"There's really some short term actions that we need to take in support, including understanding the sector and the challenges it faces immediately in the near term as well as some longer term considerations that we need to reflect on," England-Hall said.

"Those longer term considerations are really where we can have the most powerful and long-lasting impact on the shape of the tourism system and how it affects New Zealanders and, of course, our environment."

The cost will be covered by TNZ's current budget.

When it came to reimagining the future of tourism, the sky was the limit, he said.

"So it's really a blank sheet of paper and it gives us an opportunity to think about the design of the sector and how it supports an industry that really does want to give more than it takes and genuinely enriches people's lives and, of course, our home."

Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development Destination general manager Steve Armitage said local input would be vital for any future planning.

"I think it's important to take the time that is needed to make sure that whatever emerges from this is fit for purpose - not just for dealing with a very unique situation like Covid-19. But that it builds resilience into the shape of the sector in the longer term," Armitage said.

Paragliding over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

Paragliding over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Photo: 123RF

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said the industry needed to prepare for life after lockdown.

"We're launching a couple of task forces to get our district up and running again ASAP [as soon as possible] and I think that's what we've got to do with the tourism industry in total," Boult said.

"It would be a shame to waste this downtime and not be well prepared when we are ready for business again."

Part of the rethink includes reviewing where funds from the International Visitor Levy will go with a focus on how it can help rebuild the tourism industry.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said an investment plan was expected months ago and more than $55 million had already been collected.

"The indecision on what to do with that money is now helpful because it hasn't all been committed. It is available and it can be repurposed and used to actually help the industry survive and get ready for recovery," he said.

"We'll be very interested to see what ministers are thinking in terms of using those funds that are sitting there in the bank."

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said international travel would likely remain heavily restricted for some time and a reboot would help the industry prepare for that very different future.

"This is an opportunity to rethink the entire way we approach tourism to make sure we make New Zealand more sustainable, that we enrich the lives of New Zealanders and that we deliver a sector that is financially self-sustaining, so there's real opportunities in this work that Tourism New Zealand has been tasked to do," he said.

Tourism New Zealand is expected to report its initial findings to the minister in the next few weeks.

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