Operators Affirm Tourism’s Still Alive Despite Staff Shortages

photo credit: Golden Bay Kayaks

A drop in the number of people interested in training in adventure tourism has some operators worried they wouldn't have enough staff once tourism bounces back. Co-ordinator of adventure tourism at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), Sam Russek, said the course's enrollments were nearly half the amount pre-COVID, with only 10 applications for next year far.

Other tertiary institutions reported similar declines.

Russek thought there might be the perception that tourism is dead or dying due to the pandemic, but while some were struggling, others were still doing well.

Some now had more business than they could manage, primarily due to staff moving on when COVID first hit. Russek had received multiple calls from people needing qualified and experienced workers in the last month, but there was a huge gap.

Toby Wild from Moana Stand Up Paddleboards and Kayaks said his business, in Nelson, hadn't suffered as much as he'd feared.

photo credit: Moana Stand Up Paddleboards and Kayaks

He needed at least one more full-timer but had not had any applications from suitably qualified people.

Larger operators with low staff levels also worried about what would happen next year, given indications that New Zealand's border restrictions could start to lessen in the first quarter, said Wild.

Toine Houtenbos, Abel Tasman Canyon's co-owner, said business was steady despite reduced operations.

photo credit: Abel Tasman Canyons

Good junior staff coming out of NMIT would significantly help local tourism operators in the long run, said Houtenbos. It's just a matter of filling the gap of those who left because of COVID.

Houtenbos described the job as being out in incredible places day-to-day working with people who love what they do, and the skills one learns are helpful for other pathways as well.

Tony Bateup, the co-owner of Golden Bay Kayaks, said Polytech needed to offer more specialised training and better pay from businesses.

The company's guide, Sam Miles, said sector feedback was that pay was heading in the right direction, but some still needed better security and more chances to upskill. Miles added that tourism was becoming more personalised with less intense, fewer, and more quality trips.