Tourist return welcomed, but staff shortages likely

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A regional tourism leader is welcoming New Zealand reopening its borders to the world after two years, but is warning there will be inevitable staff shortages in the sector and that it will take time to get back to pre-covid times.

ChristchurchNZ head of tourism Kath Low, speaking to Ashburton District councillors last week, said the arrival of vaccinated tourists to New Zealand from Australia without isolating from April 13 was great news for the tourism sector.

Canterbury and the entire country would welcome tourists with open arms again, she said.

Vaccinated tourists from other visa-waiver countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Singapore and others, will also be allowed entry from May 2.

Mrs Low said there remained some real challenges ahead not least getting staff in place to work in the industry.

A number of initiatives were needed to drive up staffing and she expected a shortfall over the upcoming winter tourism season and at locations like the skifields.

She believed New Zealanders would be the first to arrive back in numbers, followed by tourists.

“I don’t think we are expecting a significant rush of tourists straight away. It is likely to start slow and then to grow,” she said.

The tourism sector had been very grateful to the domestic market over the past two years and there would remain a strong focus on promotion in that loyal market.

A new tourism marketing campaign has just launched in Australia and aims to build demand for travel to New Zealand.

Apart from three months of quarantine-free travel in 2021 when around 160,000 Australians came here, there have been few visitors from across the ditch over the past two years.

Mrs Low said staffing will continue to be problematic without international travellers and everything needed to be done to make it as easy as possible for backpackers and others to get in the country to fill roles in tourism.

ChristchurchNZ is contracted to deliver district tourism promotion activities in Ashburton.

Tourism spend in the Ashburton District in the October to December 2021 period was $20 million.

Some 94 percent of those electronic card transactions were domestic and the total was up 2.9 percent on the same period in 2020.

Historically around 60 percent of tourism spend in the district is domestic and 40 percent international.

-By Mick Jensen