Bay of Plenty's bruised and battered tourism and hospitality sectors need more than the potential promise of financial support in this year's Budget to help recover, industry leaders say.
Waimarino Group director Blair Anderson the Bay of Plenty tourism sector needed to see a plan.
"There's no plan, there's no future, hope. At the moment tourism is in a holding pattern."
Anderson said he believed New Zealand had another 18 months of "hibernation" without international visitors. While the business has been focused on domestic tourism and after-school activities, which had helped, there hadn't been enough income for anything beyond just getting by.
"We don't have the money to reinvest - reinvest in hope, the future, dreams, desires and we are unable to do that for the next ... one-and-a-half years. We still look after domestic (tourism), don't get me wrong but that extra money isn't there.
"It's hope that's kind of gone. And we are not seeing any future plan."
Anderson said the Bay was yet to experience the flurry of international tourism since the transtasman bubble began, opening New Zealand's borders to Australia.
It was also frustrating to seen millions spent on raising low-income funds and on welfare accommodation when the tourism sector was struggling so much, he said.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty branch president Reg Hennessy, who also owns Hennessy's Irish Bar in Rotorua, said the sector needed "more than financial help, we've gone past that now".
"It's not so much financial support but support in common sense – immigration stuff, helping clean up Rotorua which has an absolutely disgusting [housing] problem, and increases in wages – which I'm not against. They are three pretty big issues that you have to take into account."
Hennessy said Covid-19 had made business tough enough but recent Government changes made things even harder for operators. Rotorua's homelessness issue exacerbated things even more so, he said.
This week the Government announced a reset of New Zealand's immigration system, restricting an employer's ability to hire a migrant so temporary workers were only recruited for genuine job shortages. The move is considered to be part of a shift from relying on low-skilled workers to attracting those with higher skills, who were expected to receive a higher salary.
"They need to be a little bit careful of the costs on small businesses with tourism and hospitality,' Hennessy said.
"We are in one of the toughest times of our lives yet we have to put out more and more in wages. I understand why but you sort of have to be practical in when you set these things up.
"I'd love to see some common sense come out of this Budget to help tourism and hospitality going forward."
Rotorua businessman Nick Berryman said the cost of running a business and "over the top" regulations had got so tough he didn't want to do it anymore.
"We have to become a slave to our business because we can't afford the extra staff to help run it."
Berryman had to close his jet boat tourism business Riverjet in March after it became a casualty of Covid-19.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said his hopeful key priorities for this year's budget were infrastructure and reducing the costs of operating for small businesses.
"New Zealand's fastest-growing cities need to catch up on housing and transport demands and Government has a big role to play. The big issue for small businesses is the relentless increase in costs of doing business, including accumulative compliance changes from Government."
Cowley said over the next year, businesses will be more impacted by the Government's decisions to progressively reopen the international border.
"It will more or less be steady as she goes for many businesses. The Government has signalled the continuation of its wellbeing and poverty budget focus."
Tourism Bay of Plenty acting tumuaki (chief executive) Oscar Nathan said there was no denying the impact the absence of international visitors has had, particularly on cruise, transport and travel operators.
Nathan said Marketview electronic card transaction data showed domestic visitor spend had increased from January to March this year, compared to the same time in 2020.
"However, times remain tough for the tourism industry – we know that we won't have the annual $250 million in international visitor and cruise passenger spend poured into the region's economy for some time."
Nathan said they knew tourism operators were still struggling and hoped domestic support continued until more international visitors could return.
"The complexity of Covid-19 doesn't see us escape many of the national labour market trends, where anecdotally sectors such as hospitality and accommodation are continuing to find it difficult to retain and attract staff," he said.
In the meantime, the Government's pre-Budget announcement of a $200 million recovery and reset package earmarked for tourism was welcomed.
"It is heartening that our Minister of Tourism recognises the industry's value to our economy and understands the benefits of regenerative tourism, which is the focus of our strategic plan Te Hā Tāpoi, The Love of Tourism".
Nathan said they wanted to see this support continued with the Budget announcement.
Tauranga Budget Advisory Services Shirley McCombe wanted to see accommodation allowances reviewed as they were "inadequate" for the current costs of rentals, and payments made directly to landlords so people could keep their tenancies.
The service was keen to see the Government's next steps in dealing with the key issues of housing, child poverty, and mental health.
McCombe said the small increase in benefits had helped however "this is being eroded by the cost of accommodation and living".
"Personally, I would like to see support for whānau and family to buy their own homes," she said.
"The security of a warm, dry safe, place to live, and a community to belong to, will go a long way to addressing many of the challenges our clients face."
Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey was approached for comment.
- additional reporting Cira Olivier