New Tourism Minister Stuart Nash says there is no going back to how the industry was pre-Covid.
"The Tourism industry will not return to 'business as usual', or the world that existed pre-Covid. There is no going back to tourism circa 2019," he told the Tourism Industry Aotearoa Summit today.
He repeated the Government's stance that a strong border response was needed to keep Covid out and travel bubbles would only be opened up "when it is safe to do so".
He said the Government's response to Covid-19 had boosted New Zealand's international reputation and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was "a globally recognised leader".
"So let's leverage off this as much as we possibly can. Over time, as we safely relax border restrictions, we will have an opportunity to capitalise on this," said Nash.
"In fact, my ambition is that once global borders open, New Zealand is considered by the world's most discerning travellers as one of the top three places in the world to visit."
This was aspirational but not impossible, Nash said.
"Our brand has never been as strong as it is now, so let's not waste this opportunity for an industry reset."
Nash said the absence of international visitors, who last year numbered close to four million, gave New Zealand that opportunity.
Nash added three points:
• New Zealanders expect a tourism sector that supports their communities and businesses.
• We must attract high-value and high-spending visitors who buy into our own vision of sustainability.
• We must therefore deliver high-quality visitor experiences and exceed our visitors' expectations.
New Zealanders should not be subsidising international visitors to the extent that we have done in the recent past, said Nash, who is also Small Business Minister and Minister for Economic Development and Regional Economic Development.
He replaced Kelvin Davis.
Nash also revealed he had worked in the tourism industry before politics - a six-month stint at Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge as a nature guide.
This country has one of the most open economies in the world, he said
"The fact we are gathered here today, side by side, as Covid sweeps through the US and Europe with hundreds of thousands of new cases every day, is testament to the fact that we all followed the rules."
He said the sector was under pressure with problems like congestion in national parks, degradation of our prime natural attractions, creaking local infrastructure and seasonal peaks and troughs.
There was a risk that New Zealand's brand could languish in these troubled times, and there are very few things more difficult than resuscitating a brand in a crowded market.
"Tourism NZ understands this and is working incredibly hard to mitigate the risk of this happening."