Epidemic Response Committee discusses tourism after move to level 2 announced

Tourism industry leaders are discussing alert level 2 and the government's Covid-19 response at today's Epidemic Response Committee meeting.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a staggered move into level 2, starting on Thursday.

Under level 2, domestic travel will once again be allowed, including for tourism.

Māori Tourism chief executive Pania Tyson-Nathan was the first to speak and said people still saw a future in tourism.

But, she said the big elephant in the room was unemployment.

"We cannot let this happen. We need the wage subsidy.

"No one is looking for handouts. We need good data so we can manage future risks."

She said after talking to hospitality business, the best-case scenario was 51,000 unemployed and the worst case is 68000 unemployed.

"Hospo is a huge employer of Māori and Pacific Island," she said referring to SkyCity's proposed 700 job cuts announced yesterday.

National MP Todd McClay asked what happens when the wage subsidy runs out.

Pania Tyson-Nathan said some businesses would hibernate or close, but they were working to help businesses stay afloat.

"There's a whole lot we can do before that," she said, "the number one is survival".

NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau asked about kōrero focusing on domestic tourism.

"We've got a whole lot of businesses repurposing, 60 percent of our Māori businesses have a domestic focus anyway," Tyson-Nathan said.

She said unemployment was a worry because it would directly impact how much people would be willing to spend even locally.

Haka Tourism Group general manager Eve Lawrence said: "I don't believe that domestic tourism can even come close to filling the massive void that having no international visitors is going to create for New Zealand."

"We need this trans-Tasman bubble," she said, adding that there was need for everyone to be tested at airports because people's confidence in travelling would be low.

She said the wage subsidy scheme needed to be extended, from 12 to 26 weeks for specific industries like tourism. The revenue threshold should also be changed from the current 30 percent.

"We are a self-funded NZ start up we have invested 100 percent of our profits every year into growing our business."

She said the business could make it through a recession, but "we can't make it through zero revenue".

"We won't survive Covid-19."

Commercial rent relief was imperative, she said, citing the company's overheads of $350,000 a month.

Still to speak at today's meeting are Event Impressions director Jeff Alexander, Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford, Pan Pacific Travel managing director Matt Brady, Sudima Hotels chief operating officer Les Morgan, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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