In New Zealand, deepening despair for ‘abandoned’ tourism sector | Business and Economy

When New Zealand this week announced plans to repatriate foreign tourists, Eve Lawrence, general manager of Haka Tourism Group in Auckland, would not find any reason to celebrate.

After nearly two years of closing down the business cuts, Lawrence waited another five months. to receive foreign customers. Even so, guests should stay away from home for seven days – which Lawrence believes will prevent many from coming.

“We have lost summer time this year and we will probably lose it again this summer because we rely too long on people to come to New Zealand – I mean it is a long way off,” Lawrence said, adding that he expected. pilots and airlines not to encourage New Zealand under the same circumstances.

They will not sell New Zealand, they will release us from the brochure. ”

Lawrence said his company, whose income dropped by about 95 percent during the epidemic, now wants to run a business that could be very complex in six months.

“The last 21 months have been extremely difficult,” he said.

New Zealand’s decision to close its borders in March 2020 kept the country free of COVID-19 all this time until the Delta epidemic in September forced officials to abandon the “zero COVID” reduction.

New Zealand has said it is one of the lowest COVID-19 victims in the world, with 41 dead. [File Brendon O’Hagan/Bloomberg]

The South Pacific has reported less than 11,000 cases of COVID-19 and only 41 people have died, one of the lowest in the world.

But stricter border laws have ceased to be isolated, with many countries except China reopening and trying to keep up the virus. While New Zealand’s economy grew by 2.8 percent in the second quarter, there has been a slight respite from tourism and travel, which prior to the outbreak recorded more than 225,000 people and accounted for 20 percent of exports.

In May, a study conducted by Tourism Industry Aotearoa found that tourism businesses dropped 40 percent of their workforce and saw revenue cut by half in the last 12 months.

On Wednesday, the Youth Hostel Association announced the closure of all 11 of its hostels, citing the disastrous prospect of a summer resumption and a pandemic that “has taken a long time to eradicate”.

Brian Westwood, former president of the Youth Hostel Association, said the border announcements were a disgrace to a section that had been “left” for the entire duration.

“It’s impossible to predict what will happen because most businesses are kept private and supported by their finances, mortgages and family loans,” Westwood said. “Another six months without foreign visitors and fewer tourists is a challenge for many.

Our companies are prosperous, our employees are hardworking and are looking for ways to make ends meet, but rising debt will be a daunting task for some. ”

Westwood said businesses could not understand why New Zealanders with vaccines were allowed to enter the country since January but not foreign visitors.

“Banning travel to the New Zealanders is simply contrary to opinion,” he said. “It is good for the people of New Zealand and is politically wise but does not help the tourism industry.”

‘Smug hermit Kingdom’

Under the border plans announced by COVID-19 Responsible Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday, New Zealand vaccinated New Zealanders will be allowed to enter without isolation from January 17, while New Zealanders in other countries were allowed to enter from February 14. foreign visitors will be allowed from April 30 but must be separated for seven days.

Although New Zealand’s strict standards for COVID-19 have been widely publicized, there are growing indications of dissatisfaction.

Earlier this month, thousands of people took to the streets of Wellington to vaccine demonstrations and lockdowns.

Although it is still very much ahead of its rivals, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approval has dropped dramatically from the crisis in the early days of the epidemic. In September, John Key, a new prime minister of the National Party, warned in the media that the country should learn to have COVID-19 and it could not exist as a “corrupt state”.

Michael Plank, a co-ordinator of COVID-19 at the University of Canterbury who advised the New Zealand government, said that despite the frustrations in the tourism sector, many New Zealanders have taken a proactive approach to reducing borders.

“We are still driving the transition from our previous eradication approach, through continuous vaccination, to ‘common’ COVID ‘,” Plank said. “Most parts of New Zealand are still without COVID. This will not last forever, but it is better to save for a short time because we are still vaccinating.”

“We also need to look at new species that may affect you,” added Plank. “Border effects can be a very important tool in protecting a new species that can be vaccinated.”

For tourism-dependent businesses, New Zealand isolation is long gone. Although Haka Tourism managed to sell a number of sites to keep it afloat, Lawrence believes that many businesses do not survive long.

“The last four months, if I have learned anything, they change their mind every week,” he said.

“We are using the same methods and tools we had in March 2020 and we are failing to adapt and adapt the way COVID changes and evolves. I don’t think that is something to be proud of.”

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