Lynda Keene Lynda Keene

Inbound trade: 'sigh of relief’

New Zealand’s inbound travel trade says it can finally plan to reconnect with the world following this week’s announcement bringing forward the border opening to international visitors.

The Tourism Export Council of New Zealand (TECNZ) says there will be ‘an enormous sigh of relief’ around the tourism industry and particularly for those businesses that pre-Covid had a high orientation of international visitors.

TEC chief executive Lynda Keene says it is heartening that the Prime Minister has acknowledged how important international tourism is to New Zealand’s economy (and identity) and also how difficult the last two years has been for business owners.

‘With Australian visitors being short-haul travellers we anticipate there will be a quick uptake for the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market and good for Australian ski/snowboard visitors and businesses that service the ski market. We then think bookings will flatten for a few months until October 2022.

‘Despite the encouraging news businesses can now plan with more certainty, there is still a long way to go for traditional (long-haul) international tourism visitors to return to NZ. The start of the long-haul visitor (USA, Canada, UK, Europe, SE Asia, China) season is six months away (1 October 2022). Even with the date of 12 April, things don’t change overnight. It takes time. International tourism will rebuild slowly,’ adds Keene.

Survivability, stress still factors for inbound tourism

The survivability factor for international tourism businesses to get to the starting gate when international tourism significantly returns in October 2022 remains a concern for the Tourism Export Copuncil of New Zealand (TECNZ).

Chief executive, Lynda Keene says having no access to their main customer base for two years, pivoting to domestic but having a handbrake with lockdowns in 2020, then Delta in 2021 and now Omicron in 2022, has crushed many tourism businesses large and small.

‘The immense stress and anxiety business owners have been under cannot be understated. The border closure and the pandemic has taken its toll, financially, socially and emotionally.

‘Because of the lag time, businesses still need targeted financial support, they are hanging on by a thread. They’ve exhausted all balance sheet reserves and life savings, got second mortgages, borrowed from family and friends and sold assets to stay alive.

‘Most international businesses are not eligible for the recent Covid Support Payment (CSP) because they can’t demonstrate 40% loss in 2022 against 2021, when in 2021 they were only trading at zero or only 20%. It will take time for cash-flow to grow. We hope Minister Nash and Cabinet will revisit any decisions on targeted support shortly.’

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