There were tears in the eyes of some Rotorua tourism staff as news broke they are to get a slice of millions handed out to key players in the sector to ensure their survival.
The Government announced $311 million of funding at the weekend as part of its tourism recovery package and some of the 126 tourism businesses that applied for the funding were named as recipients.
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At least eight Rotorua operators will get a mix of grants of up to $500,000 and low-interest loans to support their businesses following the crash of the sector since the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Not all of the 126 successful businesses were announced publicly at the weekend as some were still working through finer details of their funding applications.
The money is part of the Government's $400m tourism Budget announcement and means all money is now fully allocated.
The package includes more than $230m in grants and loans for 126 strategic tourism businesses to help protect the jobs of about 3000 people.
The eight Rotorua businesses are Mitai Māori Village, Polynesian Spa, Lakeland Queen, National Kiwi Hatchery at Rainbow Springs, Velocity Valley, Volcanic Air, Whakarewarewa - The Living Maori Village and the Buried Village of Te Wairoa.
The package also includes about $50m for a Regional Events Fund, $20m for an inbound tour operator loan scheme and $10m to lift digital capability in the sector.
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis made the announcement at Te Pakira Marae at Whakarewarewa on Saturday morning, which he said was appropriate given "for 200 years Te Arawa has been at the forefront of tourism in New Zealand".
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Velocity Valley managing director Simon Short said he met with staff immediately after the announcement and one had tears in her eyes.
He said he wasn't yet able to say how much they would be given as they were yet to sign a contract but he said their business was honoured to be receiving funding.
"This will take us from being on the edge to without a doubt a success. We can now invest in staff."
He said the funding would also allow the business to remain in the front of visitors' minds when the borders opened, which would give people a reason to travel to Rotorua.
"It's just massive. For us as a company, it's made us feel hugely worthwhile. We are up there with the big boys."
Volcanic Air chief pilot and managing director Tim Barrow said being successful in applying for the funding had "shone a light at the end of a dark tunnel".
He said maintaining their highly skilled staff and ensuring the business remained compliant with Civil Aviation Authority rules was expensive and the funding would mean they had a better chance of survival.
"We are working hard to make sure we are okay. It's humbling to be fair, and we appreciate that we have been recognised as strategic and feel for those who have missed out because this has been hard on everyone."
Mitai Maori Village founder Wetini Mitai-Ngatai said they had needed some sort of assistance after the impacts of Covid-19.
Pam McGrath, representing the Smith family from Buried Village, said it wasn't until a catastrophe like Covid-19 that they had needed to ask for help during its 90 years.
"Like everyone else, we will be able to keep and hire more staff and work on projects."
Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust chairman James Warbrick said it was a humbling day, and gave thanks for the helping hand being given, for the effort to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand, and to everyone who was there supporting the day.
Meanwhile, Davis also announced the membership of the tourism futures taskforce, with Rotorua adding another member around the table.
Mayor Steve Chadwick had previously been announced as a member and now tourism operator Tak Mutu would also join the taskforce.
"The tourism futures taskforce will be at the centre of the next chapter in tourism in New Zealand. I'm thrilled to see a strong and dedicated group of people who will be able to apply their leadership, skills and experience to building a tourism sector that delivers on its promises to Kiwis and visitors alike," Chadwick said.
She said the tourism futures taskforce was the most visionary piece of work she had been involved in.
"I'm excited by the big thinking we've been asked to do, and the opportunity given to us to redefine the future of New Zealand tourism."
Funding recipients announced far
Mitai Māori Village – Rotorua
Tekapo Springs Limited – Tekapo
The Duke of Marlborough Hotel – Russell
Polynesian Spa – Rotorua
Royal Albatross Centre – Dunedin
Larnach Castle Limited – Dunedin
Wellington Zoo – Wellington
Dark Sky Project – Tekapo
Ngati Awa Tourism Limited & Te Manuka Tutahi Marae – Whakatāne
Dolphin and Albatross Encounter – Kaikoura
Highlands Motorsport Park – Cromwell
Franz Josef Glacier Guides and Glacier Hot Pools – West Coast
National Aquarium of New Zealand – Napier
Kapiti Island Nature Tours – Kapiti
Waitomo Adventures – Waitomo
Fullers Great Sights – Auckland
Shantytown Heritage Park – Greymouth
Fox Glacier Guiding – West Coast
Lakeland Queen – Rotorua
Dive! Tutukaka – Tutukaka
West Coast Wildlife Centre – Franz Josef Glacier
National Kiwi Hatchery – Rotorua
Velocity Valley – Rotorua
Volcanic Air – Rotorua
Otago Museum – Dunedin
Otorohanga Kiwi House – Waikato
Ko Tāne – Christchurch
Zealandia – Wellington
Kiwi North – Whangarei
The Kauri Museum – Matakohe, Northland
Auckland Seaplanes – Auckland
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre – Blenheim
Art Deco Trust – Napier
Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours – Dunedin
Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village – Rotorua
Alpine Guides Aoraki – Mt Cook
Oamaru Penguin Colony – Oamaru
Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tour – Waitomo
Westcoast Treetop Walk and Café – Hokitika
Caveworld – Waitomo
Kiwi Journeys – Nelson
Howick Historical Village – Auckland
Glenbrook Vintage Railway – Waiuku, Auckland
Natures Wonders – Dunedin
Waewae Pounamu – Hokitika
Outback New Zealand (Nomad Safaris / Info & Track / Info & Snow) – Queenstown
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium – Auckland
Buried Village of Te Wairoa Bay of Plenty Rotorua