A Word from Jim Boult, Queenstown Lakes Mayor

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Vaccination our best bet

In February and March this year, tourism businesses were reaching a critical point where many were advising me that their very survival was highly questionable.

I recall one business telling me that its turnover in February 2021 was 91% down on the same month a year earlier (before lockdown).

The mood changed remarkably with the announcement on April 6 of the opening of the transtasman bubble.

Hope is a powerful thing.

And you’ll all remember the excitement of the first aircraft arriving from Sydney on April 19.

Businesses reported to me that while they didn’t expect a massive amount of May-June trade from Australia, at least it gave them some light at the end of the tunnel.

Then of course came the shattering news of the cessation of, initially, travel from Sydney, and later the whole of Australia.

The timing couldn’t have been worse because it was right on the eve of the Australian school holidays.

Fortunately, Kiwis have come to our part of the world in droves over the New Zealand school holidays and trading conditions for many at present remain reasonable.

This is in no small part due to the commendable way in which operators and our RTOs have adapted, restructured, resized and yes, re-imagined business conditions in a domestic-only market.

I’m hearing from tourism businesses, though, that they’re really worried about the outlook following the end of the ski season.

At the present time it is difficult to see that the Australian market will open again in the current calendar year.

The tourism industry globally is now well into its second year of its biggest ever disruption.

Yes, there are some businesses locally doing quite nicely out of the Kiwi market, but there are many others who are struggling.

Contending with another domestic-only market for the foreseeable future will be tough on businesses and employees.

The Government’s actions in closing the borders are understandable and hard to argue with (although perhaps I’d have gone for a shorter period initially with a review).

It’s becoming pretty obvious, though, that this matter is not going away in the short term.

Mass vaccination is a proactive step we can take towards improving our prospects. I know that not everybody agrees with this but I think in the current circumstances we’ve got an obligation to look after all in our community and be as safe as we can.

Please get your vaccination done as soon as it’s available.

Additionally, we can focus on the few positives in that by the time Covid-19 feels like a bad dream, we will have taken the steps required to enhance our offering for visitors and will be working towards making tourism something that contributes positively not only to our economy but also to our environment and communities.

In the meantime, please spare a thought for your neighbours and friends who are involved in the tourism industry.

I know that many not involved in tourism are doing pretty well at the present time, so please keep an eye on those who are in the eye of the storm.