Bay travel companies say they have been "annihilated" by Covid-19 and are feeling "frustrated and helpless".
The Travel Association of New Zealand confirmed the outbound industry, which is worth $4.5 billion nationally, is in dire straights as borders remain closed to travellers.
The end of wage subsidies in September would put added pressure on overheads and be another "blow" for the sector, those in the industry say.
But the Government said it is engaging with the industry to explore potential options for additional support.
However, despite the challenges and subsequent job losses, the sector remains focused on its recovery although some admit "we have nothing to sell".
Travelcom travel designer Katherine Madill said months of cancelling, arranging credits and rebooking for customers had meant zero income.
"It continues now and is frustrating and disillusioning work for no reward. Sales stopped dead in mid-March and since then have only sold a few airfares home, and a couple of New Zealand tours.
"As things have progressed our wage has dropped from fulltime to three days and we are now totally dependent on the government wage subsidy."
Madill said they had closed the office doors and staff were working from home.
"It is such a massive change and a sad end of an era for the Travelcom office in Mount Maunganui. We are locally owned and sadly will lose half our staff due to Covid-19."
However, four staff were "committed to seeing this through" and post-Covid they were concentrating on selling travel within New Zealand.
"Many of our wholesalers have branched into putting together itineraries within our own country rather than internationally, so we have access to some great opportunities and deals for Small Group Travel, and exciting options to get off the beaten track."
Joanna Corbett from Galaxy Travel in Rotorua said they were working on restricted hours, receiving the wage subsidy and had used the small business loan.
"The border closures have annihilated our business."
Staff had also spent weeks rescheduling, reissuing, rebooking flights to repatriate Kiwis from all around the world including Tunisia, Philippines, France and South Africa.
Cancelling bookings, requesting refunds and processing insurance claims and monitoring travel credits were taking its toll.
"We are trying to stay positive. We have our good days and our bad days."
Corbett said her travel advisers loved the world so "we want to retain the team no matter what" and they were all supporting each other.
The company had not brought in any new initiatives to drive new business as "we have nothing definite to sell".
Now was a good time to plan overseas travel, not book, she said, while popular national destinations included Queenstown, Christchurch and tours of the South Island and Marlborough Sounds.
Helloworld Rotorua owner Deborah Kay said she was positive about the future.
"I have been very fortunate to retain all my team and being our biggest asset, I will continue to do all I can to keep them. I try to control only what I can – even though we would love the borders to open (with adequate procedures in place), this is out of my control.
"A South Pacific bubble would be a great start as our Island nations are suffering as much as we are."
In the meantime, they were promoting the beauty of our backyard.
"Interestingly, one of the most asked for itineraries is the Catlins and Stewart Island – obviously places a bit different for most Kiwis. We've also put together escorted tours to the South Island, incorporating some true local experiences.
"Moving forward, once borders are open and airlines/cruise companies are operating again, I believe we'll come back stronger than before."
Many of its clients wanted to re-instate travel as soon as they can and many are keen to re-install their holiday plans for next year.
"I have a vision that Feb/Mar 2021 we will be taking off – literally. Until such time, I remain positive and optimistic – we will get through this, we have to. When you are so passionate about what you do, you make it work somehow."
YOU Travel Bethlehem, Mount Maunganui, Katikati managing director Kay Rogers said it could not afford to keep all of its staff and "this was stressful and sad to let them go, as they were part of the travel family".
The company did not want to exist on government handouts and the wage subsidy but with "zero income it's a scary outlook".
"We are physically unable to earn an income while the country remains in lockdown and the world has reached neither non-community transmission or developed a vaccine.
"We feel frustrated and helpless."
Rogers also expressed concerns over quarantine failings which "need to be urgently resolved to give the travelling public the confidence to travel again".
"The lack of safe green lanes at the airport and adequate contact tracing will be a continuing inhibitor to the travel industry getting the vital kick-start it needs to remain in business."
During Covid YOU Travel completed a new website to promote its brand which allowed an avenue to distribute unique luxury lodges and accommodation, active adventure and ski packages, and local domestic groups.
Andrew Olsen from Travel Agents Association of New Zealand said travel agents had seen significant and economic impact before and have learned to be buffeted by economic disruption.
"But this is on all together larger and more uncertain scale.
"The whole travel chain is under pressure, not just travel agents. Tourism needs travel agents to fill aircraft leaving New Zealand.
"The outbound market recovery is integrally linked to the recovery of New Zealand's domestic tourism."
The recovery could take months and the job losses were unfortunate and an inevitable consequence of the global disruption but travel agents are "a bunch of optimists though and very resilient".
"Many do it because they love travel so they'll hibernate as best they can to get to the other side and get going as soon as they see opportunity."
A spokesperson for Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said the Government was giving consideration to the issues New Zealand travel agencies are facing from the impacts of Covid-19 and current border restrictions.
"Travel agencies, like other New Zealand businesses facing challenges caused by Covid have been able to seek assistance through initiatives such as the Wage Subsidy Scheme, business debt hibernation, the Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, and the Covid Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme. Officials are engaging with the industry to explore potential options for additional support."
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said quarantine requirements were being constantly reviewed and strengthened.
Meanwhile, last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the $11.9 billion Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme would cut off on September 1 after it was extended in June.
A petition has been started asking the Government to extend the subsidy for travel agents.
To cruise or not to cruise?
Joanna Corbett from Galaxy Travel in Rotorua
"Cruising ... big question! The cruise industry has invested so much in their ships. It is huge! People love to cruise as it is so easy. Will they still want to? I am saying yes. These are unprecedented times, we will have short memories ... We will be off as soon as they open the gates! We are Kiwis!"
Travelcom travel designer Katherine Madill
"Cruises remain popular, especially small ships and river cruises. Already there are lots of excellent prices and bonuses to entice people back."
YOU Travel Bethlehem, Mount Maunganui, Katikati managing director Kay Rogers
"We have seen some new bookings for late 2021 and 2022 by clients who have Cruise Credits. There is still a vast majority who want to cruise again but will need the assurance that the cruise companies are able to access ports of call and that the ships are a safe and healthy environment. We need time and change to remain a crucial part of the tourism sector in NZ."