A $15 million funding boost over two years for Māori tourism operators has been described as "heartening" and "absolutely awesome" news for Rotorua businesses struggling to survive.
Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson announced
the investment in Rotorua on Thursday as part of an overall plan to boost New Zealand's economic recovery post-pandemic.
Mitai Māori Village founder and chief executive officer Wetini Mitai-Ngatai said any assistance to help keep Māori businesses afloat was important.
"I think it is absolutely awesome.
"It is going to be great for the Māori businesses. Anything we receive is greatly appreciated."
The funding announcement was made in Rotorua on Thursday last week for Māori tourism operators who were impacted by Covid-19.
Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson announced the investment as part of an overall plan to boost New Zealand's economic recovery post-pandemic.
Mitai told the Rotorua Daily Post a lack of international tourists had major repercussions for tourism businesses in Rotorua, where he said many had lost their means of livelihood.
"It created turmoil in the lives of those who had been immersed in the tourism industry for many years."
He said Mitai Māori Village would use the funding to repurpose the "current cultural product" in order to realign to the domestic market.
"It would be used to pay outstanding debt and to weather the storm until normalcy returns."
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said while it was not yet clear how the fund would be managed and distributed, an initiative like this was of enormous value while New Zealand's borders remained closed.
"Ensuring the survival of Māori tourism businesses is critical to the New Zealand destination experience, while it is also a pivotal component of the country's international marketing."
This fund would help to support Māori tourism businesses continue to navigate the extremely tough trading environment, he said.
Cossar said Te Puia would use any funding to maintain their team and level of operations so they were "ready to capture international markets, beyond Australian, when they eventually re-open".
Rotorua Economic Development interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said the funding announcement was great news for Māori tourism in the region.
"Support for these operators will provide significant relief as they continue to work phenomenally hard and seek out opportunities outside of their BAU [business as usual] to stay afloat and prepare for a return of international tourists."
Tourism operators in the region were continuing to struggle with the absence of international visitors, he said.
"We know that Māori tourism operators who have been heavily reliant on international visitors continue to face incredible challenges."
Rotorua Economic Development had worked closely with Māori tourism operators over the past month, who had shared their aspirations for the future of domestic tourism.
"What we found was a keenness to understand what domestic visitors are looking for in a cultural experience and a willingness to adopt a destination management planning approach to understand what cultural tourism for Rotorua should look like," he said.
"At RED [Rotorua Economic Development], we look forward to strengthening our relationship and continuing conversations with New Zealand Māori Tourism around how we can collaborate on various work programmes in order to support our local Māori operators."
Rotorua kaumātua Monty Morrison said the funding was hugely important for Rotoura, particularly the Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa operators.
"The news was heartening news. Like most other things the devil is in the detail now."
"It is a good start for us here in Rotorua with the announcement of the $15 million."