Hamilton & Waikato Tourism Chief Executive, Jason Dawson, says that all businesses across the region’s visitor economy have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, including tourism attractions, tour operators, transport providers, accommodation, retail, hospitality, conventions and business events, major events and venues, and all our suppliers.
“Our tourism businesses have been bleeding cash, trying to reduce overhead costs and using up their cash reserves or personal savings to stay afloat. Our sector can easily show a 50% reduction in revenue to meet the revised criteria” says Dawson.
“The eight-week extension to the wage subsidy will help ease the pain and hopefully keep more people in the sector in the short-term. However, further initiatives will be required in the months ahead to prevent significant job losses” he said.
“Our people are our number one asset and retention is our key priority. They are experienced, talented, qualified and passionate for our industry. Without people, tourism and events is not a viable business model” said Dawson.
As part of the 2020 Wellbeing Budget, sector-specific support has been announced in the form of a $400m Tourism Recovery Fund which includes:
- a domestic tourism campaign;
- providing advice and support for pivoting a business towards the domestic and Australian markets;
- protection and assistance for key tourism assets impacted by COVID-19; and
- a New Zealand Futures Tourism Taskforce to lead the thinking of the reimagining of the sector.
“Domestic tourism has been key anchor for the Waikato, making up 75% of our visitor market and injecting $1.2b annually into the regional economy for the year ending March 2020” says Dawson.
“However, one of the key industry needs is to provide support around adapting our tourism experiences to the domestic visitor market which has very different needs to our international traveller” he says.
“Kiwis are self-explorers and love to drive, so not only their travel behaviours are different within New Zealand compared to international visitors; their needs, wants and expectations are also different” he added.
“Additional support to help build the capability of our sector around adjusting their business model is welcomed, including the funding for the national domestic tourism campaign.”
“We look forward to finding out more detail around the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme as there are key regional attractions and amenities which play a vital role in our communities and will help lead the social, economic and environmental recovery for our region” says Dawson.
The Waikato visitor economy was already impacted before international travel restrictions and Alert Level 4 lockdown were put in place with the loss of the China group travel market at the end of January 2020.