When the new Government is elected, tourism operators will be looking for a clear signal that it is willing to work in close partnership on rebuilding the industry, Tourism Industry Aotearoa says.
“Tourism was the first industry to be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to recover. We need a public sector that works with the tourism industry to address immediate needs and achieve long-term aspirations,” TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says.
“All parts of Government must understand their impact on tourism and the need to steer the waka in the same direction. Leadership and direction have to come from the top.”
TIA’s Tourism Election 2020 Action Plan identifies ‘Partnership’ as one of the six categories where the action will be required from the incoming Government. It has listed eleven action points in this category.
“The new Government’s first action to demonstrate support for the revitalisation of our industry must be to allocate the Tourism portfolio to a senior Minister. The portfolio has been held by the Prime Minister or a front bench MP since 2008, reflecting its importance to New Zealand’s economy,” Roberts says.
“The need for an Associate Minister is also obvious, to stay across all the issues and help manage the workload.”
TIA wants the Tourism Recovery Ministers’ Group, set up by the current Government, to continue after the election.
The association will also take a close interest in the progress of the Tourism Futures Taskforce.
“The Taskforce is a creation of Government but has private sector input. It must listen and take guidance from a wide range of sectors and interests,” Roberts says.
TIA is in no doubt that further direct financial support for tourism businesses will be needed. But the support is not just about money. The incoming Government must commit to providing the policy settings to enable the fastest recovery possible, along with easing international travel restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.
Looking beyond immediate needs, the industry wants a Government that will work with it to identify national tourism infrastructure priorities and include these in its infrastructure strategies.
“Prior to the pandemic, we had identified that the growth in visitor numbers was putting pressure on some communities, mainly because of a lack of infrastructure. We now have a never to be repeated opportunity to plan for well-supported, sustainable tourism industry, and we must not miss this chance,” he says.
“Other countries are grasping the opportunity. For example, the West Australian Government has announced an AUD$230 million investment in upgrading tourism infrastructure. Here, the International Visitor Levy account has close to $45 million in unspent funds, collected pre-COVID. The last projects supported by the IVL were announced back in August 2019. This is the time to be making investments in infrastructure.
“Our industry has taken a battering and needs a strong helping hand to get back up off the canvas. Tourism businesses are in no position to bear any extra taxes.”
TIA will call on the new Government to rule out any new tourism taxes.