Mackenzie tourism operators say they need government help to survive
Tourism companies in the Mackenzie say they are struggling and need government help.
The owner of Old Mountaineers Café and Bar and Southern Alps Guiding in Aoraki / Mt Cook, Charlie Hobbs, said The announcement by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash on Friday morning that more tourism funding is coming the substance was missing and comes too late.
“I see he’s not going to help us much. He didn’t even say what he was going to do.
“I have several travel agencies that do nothing because there are no tourists. I have a restaurant that is down 90 percent and has grown from 19 employees to 2, ”Hobbs said.
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Hobbs said he would like to see the government waive fees to support troubled tourism businesses, and said central and local governments “are still charging operators a lot” with rates and compliance costs.
The Department of Conservation waived operating fees for tourism businesses in Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park in 2020, but that waiver expires in June.
Hoping DOC will extend the waiver, Hobbs said he will be forced to hibernate his businesses until May without government support.
Hobbs said his tourism businesses were unable to survive on local tourists.
“We do heli hiking, heli skiing, glacier kayaking. Normally we would be fully booked: Heli-hiking two trips a day, double loading, kayak full every day, guides employed. Now there is nothing left. “
“Domestic tourists don’t do these things. We’ve cut prices on heli-hiking as much as possible, but it’s too expensive for most kiwis. They want us to lower it further, but we just can’t. “
“We serve all kinds of markets, but the kiwi market cannot sustain tourism. New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world and the government has spent a fortune on it. You can’t turn around and leave, not anymore. “
Trying to recruit staff was also a problem for Hobbs. as was the case for many companies in the Mackenzie that previously relied on international visitors on work visas.
“When the borders are open, the hospitality and tourism industries will not be able to keep up because there are no workers to actually provide the service,” he said.
The owner of Aviation Adventures and pilot from Pukaki, Chris Rudge, said that he does not want a “government handout”, but a tax break.
In December 2020 Rudge sent a letter to Nash asking for a refund on fuel taxwhich, in his opinion, would be of “massive help” to troubled airlines.
“It’s taxes, money we’ve already paid the government. Just give us this money back. That would be of great help to us. “
Rudge said he got a response from Nash stating that he had forwarded it to another department.
“He practically gave away the money. For me it was a very simple thing. “
“You want to keep these businesses going so that when the tourists come back they’ll be in a good financial position to get on. But if you ignore them and turn your back on them, that won’t help the country in the long run. “
Rudge also disagreed with Nash’s suggestion that New Zealand should focus on attracting only high-end tourists.
“I think that’s the wrong approach. I can tell you from my shop that we have a lot of backpackers coming through us.
“These backpackers work hard here to support the country by picking kiwis and dairy farming. They save their dollars and for them their only major tourism expense is to do something like [a scenic flight]. “
“The only problem with the backpackers is that one or two go to the bathroom where they shouldn’t. So the problem is not with the backpackers, the problem is that they don’t provide toilets. “
“From my point of view, backpackers are just as valuable as high-end tourists.”
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Nash said he was deeply concerned about events in areas such as the Mackenzie District, Queenstown, Kaikōura, Fiordland and the West Coast, which are heavily dependent on international tourists.
Nash said that pre-Covid tourism was “unsustainable” and that future tourism will not look like it did in the past.
“The long-term picture for tourism after the borders are reopened requires more fundamental changes. Consistent advice from the industry, from small communities and from outside agencies like the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment shows that we cannot go back to the tourism model that existed before Covid-19, ”he said.
Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said it was “great that” [Nash] recognizes the hardship in Mackenzie and what we are going through ”.
Smith agreed with Nash’s argument that tourist areas need more “economic diversification”.
“As mayor, I was surprised that some of our tourism companies are not resilient. we are very dependent [on international tourists]. “
Smith said that while we “don’t have many details,” announcing that more support will be available is “a great step and a step in the right direction to support an industry that is particularly important to Mackenzie.”
Smith said while he hasn’t closed many tourism businesses, “I know some of them are struggling. They try and I take my hat off to them, keep the door open, keep their staff busy. “
“The domestic support was good, especially the weekends were strong and we had a number of activities in the district that really helped. But the days of the week are pretty flat.
“If tourism does not return to the way it was, we will have to consider some form of diversification for some of our businesses.”
South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce executive director Wendy Smith said the Mackenzie District is struggling in a number of industries, most obviously tourism, hospitality, accommodation and events.
Smith said the departure of many international workers had also impacted the entire agricultural sector as vacancies could not be filled.
“We hope the government will consider even more targeted business support packages so that these companies can still exist after the borders are reopened. One of our suggestions is that it might be possible to write off part of the small business cash flow loan based on a number of criteria.
“This would allow small businesses to shed some of the liability they currently bear, making hibernation or partial hibernation more feasible.
“We also encourage the government to inform companies of the possible timeframes and criteria required to open a transtasmanian bubble and a bubble with some Pacific islands to facilitate entry into New Zealand for key workers.”
“Everyone recognizes that these are very difficult times and that we must work together to find solutions.”