Inbound operators in the ravaged tourism sector have welcomed government funding announcements.
At the Trenz Hui in Christchurch today, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash got "an instantaneous round of applause" when he mentioned $14 million would be allocated to 26 inbound tour operators. It was part of a $200m investment over the next two years, although more than $70m was from an earlier package, announced last year.
Lynda Keene, chief executive of the Tourism Export Council, which represents inbound tourism operators (ITOs), said her group was "absolutely delighted" with the Nash announcement.
She said it would provide a hugely critical lifeline to 26 ITOs, converting $500,000 of strategic tourism asset protection programme loan funding into grants.
"The impact that this will have will allow these ITOs to plan ahead with more security as they look at reactivating the millions of dollars of visitor bookings in the system for when the time is right to welcome back international visitors."
ITOs bring in more than 55 per cent of all international visitors, generating $9.5 billion of international receipts, said Keene.
This funding will allow ITOs to bring back experienced staff in many countries to start the process of getting commitment to travel.
"The next step which will really see interest in New Zealand grow globally is when we can get an intention date from Government about safe reopening of borders to other long-haul countries."
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) says the Government has recognised that the industry still faces a long road to recovery, and needs the support of the Government.
Nash announced the plan targeted five South Island tourist communities for specialist support, pressure on Māori tourism operators and conservation facilities was recognised, and domestic and international-facing tourism agencies were put on a more secure footing.
As part of the $200m Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Reset Plan there would also be work to reset tourism with a focus on sustainability, industry standards and regional economic diversification.
TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said the tourism industry was looking forward to working with the Government and Nash's plan was the next step in that process.
"More than 700 New Zealand tourism operators attending Trenz Hui 2021 in Christchurch this week have shown they are committed to the sustainable future of our industry,'' Roberts said.
"TIA has been calling for targeted support because the impact of closed borders varies from region to region, sector to sector, and business to business. The Tasman travel bubble has been a help but for some businesses, recovery is still a long way off."
Research by TIA found that four in 10 tourism jobs have been lost in the past year - up to 90,000 jobs. Now recovery could be hampered by the shortage of staff as many have gone into other work in the hot job market.
Roberts said TIA was also pleased the Government has heeded its call for the Department of Conservation concession fee waiver scheme to be continued beyond June 30.
"This measure will provide immediate relief for 1000 tourism businesses that operate on the public conservation estate."
An extra $10m allows tourism concession fees to be waived for a further six months. It will ensure important work on conservation and recreational facilities continues despite the loss of revenue.
Nash said there were 12 key points in the Tourism Communities Plan. Half are focused on the most vulnerable South Island regions: Fiordland, South Westland, Queenstown Lakes, Mackenzie District and Kaikōura.
The plan is funded through the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. It includes about $73m returned and reprioritised from the 2020 Tourism Recovery Package.
Nash said support for those areas would include:
• Psychological and social wellbeing support and training ($4.5m).
• Grants for businesses to get expert advice on planning and decision-making in response to Covid-19 ($10m total, $5000 per business).
• Grants to help businesses implement these plans and advice ($10m, $5000 per business).
• A kick-start fund so businesses that have gone into hibernation or suspended operations can receive grants to help reopen and resume trading once international visitors return ($49m).
• Support to diversify and re-set the Queenstown-Wanaka regional economy with a $20m fund, to help develop alternative industries and attract private sector investment. Government support will be through an underwriting role. Potential projects include a digital innovation hub and a film studio.
• Tourism at the iconic Unesco World Heritage site Milford Sound-Piopiotahi cannot return to its pre-Covid state. Significant pressure from 870,000 annual visitors undermines cultural and environmental values and infrastructure in Fiordland National Park.
Six additional components of the plan to address longer-term challenges are:
• Regional Tourism Organisations will receive a new round of annual grant funding of $26 million to manage, plan, promote and market tourism activities in their regions.
• The funding for ITOs which allows existing loans from the 2020 Tourism Recovery Package to be converted to grants. This means 26 ITOs may receive up to $500,000 each.
• Funding (to be announced next month) managed by New Zealand Māori Tourism who will also expand their business support services.
• The DOC fee waiver extension. It will ensure important work on conservation and recreational facilities continues despite the loss of revenue. It also enables tourism jobs and businesses to remain active in the Conservation estate.
• Local councils can apply to another round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, with $16.5 million of new investment. This allows many councils with small rating bases use the fund to help develop tourism assets like carparks, toilet blocks, waste disposal facilities, and cycle paths.
• A new Tourism Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) will see the Government work in partnership with tourism businesses and the tourism workforce, councils, iwi, researchers and independent advisers. The ITP will be developed with $10m in new funding and is aimed at developing more sustainable tourism.