19 Apr 2021

Tourism operators in regions take heart from bubble opening

11:09 am on 19 April 2021

An increase in web traffic from Australians is among positive signs regional tourist operators are seeing as the trans-Tasman bubble is launched.

Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button.

Paul Button hopes domestic tourists won't stop supporting his region now that quarantine-free travel is possible with Australia. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

General manager of Canopy Tours in Rotorua Paul Button and base manager for INFLITE skydiving at the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers Robbie Stewart are among business operators who have been impacted by the lack of international travellers.

Both told Morning Report they are relieved the border has re-opened to Australian visitors but the industry still faces a long recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

Button hopes it will make a big difference to tourism in Rotorua. He said it was hard to know its impact but website traffic had lifted with views from up to 300 Australians and about $1000 in sales recently.

"In one sense we're forecasting not a lot of change in the start so we don't get ahead of ourselves but as we get a couple of months in, it might really crack."

Button said his business had the capacity to run at 10 times its current level.

He said the rest of the country could share the excitement of New Zealanders reuniting with relatives based in Australia.

Stewart said the bubble was an important development that he had been wanting for some time. His region could offer Australian visitors "a super-different environment" with mountains and glaciers "so that's going to count a lot in our favour".

His business had also noticed an increase in web traffic from Australians and there had been a pleasing increase in accommodation bookings in the region.

Some accommodation providers had closed down, but he was sure there would be enough spaces at least for the early stages of the trans-Tasman bubble.

The Department of Conservation's Jobs for Nature programme meant 80 percent of his staff had been retained throughout the border shutdown, Stewart said.

Button said his company had enjoyed strong support from domestic tourists in the last year and he hoped this would continue and that people would not assume the tourism sector's problems were fixed with the opening of links with Australia.

Follow RNZ's blog on the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble

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