A Bay of Islands tourism operator has swooped in to help small businesses weather the Covid-19 storm with a big-hearted gesture of caffeine and kindness.
The chief executive of Salt Air helicopter sightseeing tours, Grant Harnish, is "paying it forward" by buying 45 free takeaway coffees from three Paihia cafes this week in a bid to support local businesses and get people spending in the small tourist town.
He posted the plan on social media on Wednesday, kicking off with 15 coffees at Third Wheel Coffee Co which is down a laneway off Marsden Rd.
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"Anyone can go get themselves a coffee on us, the only requirement is that you also buy something else from them in the same order," the post said.
"We encourage you to keep supporting local businesses in whatever way you can, it will be a tough winter."
Harnish gave credit to his marketing manager Michelle Ackers for spotting the idea, which is being carried out by Heliview Flights in Cromwell in Central Otago.
"We flogged the idea and thought what a great thing to do," Harnish said.
"We've spread it around three cafés over three days, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and will promote each one on our Facebook page. We'll shout the coffee."
Salt Air – which is closed for passenger services due to Covid-19 restrictions and hopes to reopen under alert level 2 – provides scenic tours along with commercial helicopter lifting and firefighting services.
Harnish said he hoped another business would pick up the coffee initiative next week and continue to pay it forward.
"If they don't then we'll have another look at it," he said.
"I've always liked the idea of paying if forward, it's a great philosophy. This is about encouraging people to get a coffee and buy something else, which doubles the income for the cafe."
The Third Wheel Coffee Co's Tom Richardson, who owns the cafe with his sister Genevieve, said the gesture was "awesome".
"It's exactly what we need to be doing for the hospitality industry," he said.
"Everyone is trying to do things a bit differently at the moment. Salt Air is a big tourist operator and has also been hit pretty hard and they're trying to help us out - it's really cool."
The cafe opened for contactless orders last week and support from locals has been really positive, Richardson said.
The weekend was particularly busy, with cinnamon scrolls proving to be a big hit.
Harnish, who established his business in 1992, said there was no doubt businesses in the tourist town were hurting.
"At the moment we're living in a false sense of security because of the wage subsidy scheme, which allows people some breathing space.
"But the real concern is yet to come. I'm worried about what the town is going to look like, when we lose some of these little businesses which can't keep going. I want to see this place survive - I love this town."
Check out posts on Facebook today and Friday for the other two Paihia cafe giveaways.