Aro Ha is an award winning luxury health retreat in Glenorchy, Queenstown. The tourism and hospitality sectors are disappointed but understand the bubble break. Photo / Supplied
By Harry Lock, RNZ
The tourism and hospitality sectors are disappointed but understanding of the decision to suspend the travel bubble.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision yesterday afternoon and said the suspension of non-quarantine travel would last for at least eight weeks.
This comes at a particularly bad time for the ski industry, which has been looking forward to welcoming Australians over the next two weeks.
Ski accommodation provider Ski Time, at the foot of the Mount Hutt ski area, expects to lose more than half of its bookings over the next two months due to the suspension of the travel bubble.
Director Pete Wood said that as a result, they may have to make layoffs.
“It’s going to be tough. We’ll probably have to make some tough decisions over the next couple of weeks depending on how business goes.
“We certainly don’t want to lose any staff. We have a great team here right now and they’ve all stepped up to survive the last 18 months together, and it would be a shame to lose a few.”
He said 60% of all the company’s August bookings were from Australians and would now all be canceled.
He was hoping New Zealanders would travel to the South Island for a ski vacation in August, to make up for the shortage of Australians.
“We’ve had a pretty busy August, but of course with these cancellations there are going to be quite a few gaps here which will allow the Kiwis to start traveling again as they can’t go to Australia.”
Ski Time isn’t the only company losing out: a Queenstown operator said cancellations have been pouring in quickly since the transtasman travel bubble was suspended.
Mark Quickfall is the owner of Totally Tourism and, like many operators in the south, has said they are preparing for a big winter season with visitors from Australia.
He said many companies and employees would feel anxious after yesterday’s announcement, especially if more staff had been hired in anticipation of more visitors.
“We’re just a leak from an epidemic. If you have a choice to open up and end up with a lockdown, or stay protected, I think we know what the answer is.
“But that doesn’t make it any easier.”
The government has ruled out any specific support for tourism businesses affected by the suspension.
A financial cost for operators is yet to come.
“There were a lot of cancellations that rushed,” Quickfall said. “Like everyone here, we’ve had strong bookings from Australia, for our heli-skiing businesses, our helicopter operations, in Milford.
“Everything disappeared overnight.
The tourism industry body said it hopes the suspension of the Transtasman bubble will last no longer than eight weeks.
Industry hopes for September vacation
Tourism Industry Aotearoa General Manager Chris Roberts said that while it was disappointing, it was the right decision to take.
He said operators would look forward to the next Australian school vacation, which begins in mid-September. If the bubble then works, Roberts expects a large number of visitors to book trips again.
“If the bubble is operational again by September, then we can expect a good number of Australian visitors to come here for the September school holidays.
“This is something we can look forward to at the end of what is hopefully just an eight week suspension.”
Roberts is hoping domestic tourists will fill some of the void in the meantime and the financial blow won’t be too severe.
“There are relatively few Australian visitors to New Zealand right now.
“Those Australians who were planning to come to New Zealand in the next eight weeks, which would have included a ski vacation, will now have to cancel those plans and this is reasonably unfortunate.
“But at the same time, New Zealanders will not be leaving for Australia, and some of these New Zealanders may instead choose to vacation at home.”
Meanwhile, the hospitality industry has said the government needs to rethink its decision not to offer support to companies affected by the suspension of the Transtasman bubble.
Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said that even if it was the right decision, businesses would suffer.
She said the hospitality and tourism sectors had suffered the full economic impact of closures and border restrictions.
“Hospitality and tourism are the lost leaders when it comes to the cost of balancing health risks. I think this is the time we really need to have this solid conversation with government.”
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This notice was published: 2021-07-23 20:19:21