A trans-Tasman and Pacific bubble is likely to be followed by bilateral travel agreements between New Zealand and the Southeast Asian seaboard, Colliers International says.
Colliers' national director of hotels, Dean Humphries, said countries including Hong Kong, South Korea, China and Taiwan would be lining up to join an expanding tourism "bubble," provided they could show they have contained the virus at manageable levels.
"As a result, New Zealand has a unique opportunity to be an ideal 'early adopter' for many tourism-focused initiatives and become a benchmark and possibly market leader in the road to recovery for the global tourism sector."
Humphries said while recovery would be gradual, it was likely to gain momentum from next year, backed by the early hosting of global sporting and cultural events such as the America's Cup and Apec, both still on the 2021 calendar.
However, he warned hotel performance was unlikely to fully recover to pre-coronavirus levels for up to five years, in part because of a large number of new hotel rooms under construction.
"The majority of New Zealand's 27 hotel projects under construction will continue, although some will be deferred until the market improves. Most projects will face a delay in completion of the order of three to six months."
Those projects, the majority in Auckland, accounted for close to 4,200 extra rooms, including the 244-room Intercontinental Hotel at Commercial Bay and the 146-room Mercure Hotel at Auckland Airport.
Colliers suggested some of the existing hotel inventory, notably serviced apartments, which make up about 20 percent of short-stay accommodation, would move into the long-term rental or owner-occupier sector.
With proposed new hotel developments also likely to be halted over the short to medium term, this would probably lead to a reduction in existing and forecast hotel inventory, he said.
Investment yields stay firm
Colliers director of hotel valuation and advisory Chris Bennett, meanwhile, said investment yields for prime hotel assets remained mostly at pre-covid levels, "albeit we are anticipating some reduction in values due to lower forecast earnings.
"Investors with long-term objectives, who can weather the next 18 months, will probably emerge in a stronger position, having fully re-evaluated their current operating model and positioned themselves for a robust recovery.
"Conversely, those owners who are under-capitalised or unable to sustain some pressure on their balance sheets over the short term may need to divest or restructure their business and/or assets."
The firm's latest survey of hotel operations, conducted during April, found 40 percent of hotels were either closed or placed in temporary 'hibernation' while a further 40 percent remained open with limited inventory and skeleton staff.
Hotel occupancy fell from 80 percent in the first quarter of 2020 to under 20 percent in all key markets in April. Room rates also fell by up to 50 percent, the survey found.
Humphries said even as the industry progressed out of covid-19, there was still "no doubt" there would be some casualties in the sector, as owners and operators established whether they could efficiently run their businesses.
"However, this will also create opportunities for others who can quickly adapt and adopt new strategies."
Humphries believes New Zealand will remain reliant to some degree on how wider global markets emerge from the pandemic.
"While we need to adopt a 'wait and see' approach until clear trends emerge, we now have time to prepare for the inevitable changes in the marketplace."
He suggested the recovery would be domestic led, with domestic guests accounting for more than half of hotel room night demand at pre-covid levels. The exception was Queenstown at 34 percent.
"We expect an initial uptick in domestic tourism from May 14, when level two came into play, followed by demand from a trans-Tasman and Pacific bubble that may be established as soon as the third or fourth quarter of this year. "