Frustration is boiling over among tourism operators who want to be able to open for business at alert level 2.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa says Kiwis can travel safely within their own country at level 2 and must be allowed to do so.

"Keeping the tourism industry closed for weeks, if not months, longer until we reach level 1 will put thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses at risk," says TIA chief executive Chris Roberts.

Safely reconnecting families and communities was a "social and economic necessity" but the Government re-iterated today that non-essential travel should be avoided under level 2.

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Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said the airline was keen to start domestic services as soon as ''practicably possible'' to support economic recovery and connect family, friends and businesses.

The airline has been flying skeleton services to a handful of centres for only essential workers for the past five weeks.

"Air New Zealand has a critical role to play in reviving our economy, especially in the regions which have been hard hit by the impact of Covid-19,'' said Foran.

''We'll be putting a big emphasis on encouraging Kiwis to explore New Zealand and support local businesses given our international borders are likely to remain closed for some time."

Roberts says aviation, accommodation, hospitality, retail, and most recreation and tourism activities can all be operated safely under Level 2.

The Government is due to announce whether it will shift to level 2 in just over a week although it is still working through exactly what will be permitted under the more relaxed state.

Roberts said tourism businesses were fully committed to operating in a safe and responsible manner.

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Level 2 operating guidelines were being developed for sectors and individual businesses, including provisions for comprehensive contact tracing.

Individual businesses will have track and tracing processes in place for their customers before they open their doors, Roberts said.

"Many tourism businesses will simply not be viable if stringent travel restrictions continue at level 2. For example, only 2000 of the 25,000 Ruapehu ski season pass holders live within 100km of the mountain.''

Roberts said level 2 guidelines specifically allow for activities like bungy jumping and kayaking tours to resume, "but there's little point opening your business if you can only have locals as customers".

Tourism businesses need to be able to start taking domestic winter bookings as soon as possible. If they are unable to start trading soon, many will be mothballed well before our international borders are reopened, he said.

The Board of Airline Representatives is also calling for a relaxation of rules for struggling airlines, including smaller regional carriers.

"They need level 2 settings that allow safe air travel across the regions, and not just essential travel," said Barnz executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers.

He said the organisation welcomed moves by the government to look at travel settings for Level 2.

"I think people are ready to travel, businesses need to see clients and staff, and people need to see families and loved ones. Out tourism businesses need the life blood of air links to get them going.
 
"Every day that goes by with tighter restrictions means more jobs and businesses are lost, and the regional airlines themselves are at risk."

The International Air Transport Association estimates that 130,000 jobs in New Zealand that are dependent on aviation will be lost – many of those jobs can be saved if we enable safe air travel with level 2.
 
"The level of risk has significantly dropped – the border is closed, and there is now no known community transmission of Covid. The aviation sector can safely move people around New Zealand under level 2, and provide contact tracing where needed," said Tighe-Umbers.

Toursim Minister Kelvin Davis said today he didn't want to pre-empt an announcement on what Level 2 restrictions would be.

''What I can tell you is that the Covid-19 website states that at Alert Level 2, people are advised to avoid non-essential travel. There are also guidelines around mass gatherings.''

Davis said tourism was one of the sectors that has been hardest-hit by the impact of Covid-19 and the Government recognised that operators are experiencing incredibly difficult times.

It had provided support through the wage subsidy scheme and new tax and rent measures and had today announced that it will provide interest free loans of up to $100,000 for a year to small businesses, he said.

New research released today by TIA showed that Kiwis loved travelling around New Zealand.

The research, carried out for TIA by Angus & Associates, shows that three in four New Zealand residents took an overnight domestic trip for leisure purposes in the year ending March 2020.

Overall satisfaction with their most recent trip averaged 8.7 out of 10, with half of all travellers reporting that their experience had exceeded their expectations. Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Hawke's Bay and the wider Canterbury region recorded the highest satisfaction levels.

"The next few months will be an amazing opportunity for Kiwis to experience the best New Zealand has to offer – and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to save the livelihoods of other Kiwis," Roberts said.

"Tourism is the most impacted sector of the economy and faces the longest recovery. We are calling on the Government to take a sensible and safe approach to kick starting our recovery."

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Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website