Scott Mehrtens, Leisure Time Travel Scott Mehrtens, Leisure Time Travel

Agents won’t ignore NZ again

Many of the travel agents who have embraced selling New Zealand tours and holidays throughout the Covid pandemic are saying they will never ignore the domestic market again, according to a leading tour operator.

Scott Mehrtens, managing director of Leisure Time Travel, says that while agents are tending to go back to the ‘default mode’ of selling offshore destinations as bubbles open they are still asking about new product and opportunities in their own country.

‘The proactive agents, the ones that got into it straight away, have been hugely successful. They won’t neglect New Zealand again – it’s a form of de-risk.’

Mehrtens’ comments comes as Leisure Time releases its new brochure for 2021-22, with some 90 domestic tours including a number that have not been released before.

That said, the company is itself dipping its toes back into the post pandemic waters with planned tours to Australia (including fully escorted trips to Tasmania, Norfolk Island, Vivid Sydney and Western Australia) early next year and even a Wild Alaska programme scheduled for August 2022. Pacific Island itineraries are also in the brochure.

Mehrtens says he is also starting to get interest inbound from Australia and early next month the company will get its first Aussie group away since Covid hit last year.

‘It’s largely an agricultural tour in the South Island for about 20 people and we think some of the guests will stay a bit longer and attend Fieldays (in Hamilton). Along with VFR we see the recovery being driven initially by special interest, business events and other purpose driven travel.

‘But we are seeing leisure enquiries for quarter four, so that’s good. Generally, we’re happy with the way the bubble is going.’

Mehrtens says Leisure Time has structured a number of experiences around existing events and also created its own themes and special interests. Americana, classic cars, food and wine, Balloons over Waikato, Hokitika Wild Foods, the Bluff Festival, a Queens Charlotte Sound Explorer and a New Zealand Adventure are just some of the themed activities in the pipeline.

‘This is great for the travel agent, who doesn’t have to ferret around trying to find accommodation at the last minute, especially around the popular regional events. We’ve got accommodation booked already.’

January date positive, can we have a plan?

Leisure Time Travel managing director Scott Mehrtens says it is encouraging to hear government officials talking about opening the borders wider early in January.

This is combined with increasing interest from offshore markets, including Americans who are ‘champing at the bit’ to get here.

‘We have rehired some staff who were made redundant due to Covid – they are inbound staff and we’ve done that because of the level of enquiry that is coming back.

‘What we now need to know is what opening the borders will look like – will there be a distinction between vaccinated and non vaccinated travellers, will there be a traffic lights system, will any isolation be required? If people have to add on three days or so of isolation that makes a huge difference.

‘We all realise things can change but it would be good to have a roadmap. What is the plan to open the borders once it is safe to do so?’

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