A leading New Zealand tourism entrepreneur says it’s a disgrace the Government’s much-vaunted Tourism Futures Taskforce will not be presenting its final report until April next year, and much more urgent work is being overlooked.
“Tourism was a $40 billion industry, yet our borders would’ve been closed for 13 months by the time the Government even starts considering a report and recommendations on tourism. It’s unbelievable,” says Veronika Vermeulen, owner of Aroha New Zealand Tours.
The Minister of Tourism set up the independent New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce in June. According to MBIE’s website: ‘The Taskforce will provide an interim report to ministers in December 2020, with a final report and recommendations due in April 2021’.
“It begs the question: How long will the Government then mull over the report and just how protracted will its implementation be? Sure, the taskforce is busy having workshops and meetings, but tourism operators desperately need much more decisive and urgent action from the Government,” she said.
Vermeulen is among the growing list of tourism advocates demanding a review of the Government’s Strategic Assets Protection Programme. The industry has accused it of being an uneven playing field. Ministers dismissed official advice with documents showing the programme has been riddled with problems.
“The overwhelming majority of tourism businesses do not qualify as strategic assets, and with the wage subsidy scheme fast drying up, we’re on our own. By the time the taskforce delivers its big glossy report on securing our futures, we’ll all be broke!”
The businesswoman says the Government’s approach to supporting the tourism sector is completely back to front.
“There are many immediate issues to address, yet the Government seems keener to reimagine tourism’s long-term future. Some good brains are on the task force, but sadly they’ve been told to focus on the coming decades and take their time.
“New Zealand’s tourism operators haven’t got the luxury of time. We need specific action now, not some idealistic vision rolled out in another seven months,” said Vermeulen.
Veronika Vermeulen is the owner of Aroha New Zealand Tours and a travel industry expert. She has been welcoming high-value, luxury foreign travellers to New Zealand for over 20 years.