Tourism operators are pleased to see self-isolation for travellers kicked to the curb, but say they still need answers about the border.
By the end of the week, self-isolation will be a thing of the past for all New Zealanders coming home.
It has been nearly two years since the New Zealand borders slammed shut with only a few attempts at a trans-Tasman bubble since then.
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When the phased reopening was announced last month, tourism businesses worried that the need for self-isolation would keep many visitors away.
Te Puia chief executive Tim Cossar said Monday’s news allayed those concerns.
“It’s got to be a good thing. For travellers, it was always isolation in any form was always going to hold back leisure travel so it’s a good step in the right direction,” Cossar said.
“Hopefully we should start seeing some movement in the next few months of Australians coming across our border again which will be really positive.”
With the return of tourists inching closer, he has turned his attention to staffing.
They have tried to keep their staff together despite the costs.
But he said many tourism and hospitality businesses were desperately seeking certain skills to no avail after thousands of job losses during the pandemic.
“We’ve got some specific roles here because we have people who are carvers and things like that, there’s just not an abundance of those people out there.”
A lot of people who previously worked for them had moved into different sectors, he said.
“I think there is going to be a pretty challenging couple of years, trying to find the right skill sets to build our businesses back, and they’re not going to be overly abundant.”
With the ski season only a few months away, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Jono Dean said removing self-isolation was a step in the right direction, but more action was needed.
“There’s a lot of tourism businesses throughout the country that are kind of over being consulted on what dates and times we might be planning towards, but want to actually see firm evidence of visitors walking back through the doors and their tills ringing.”
The company had up to 700 staff each winter with roughly half of them from overseas.
He said they needed answers about the border – and ski boots on the ground – soon
“Unfortunately it can’t go from zero to 100 overnight. It takes time to rebuild the labour force that’s required to fulfil a lot of tourism businesses throughout the country and so we need urgent addressing of those issues.”
Totally Tourism owner Mark Quickfall said it’s a good start, but businesses needed a date for the borders to reopen.
“If this drags on for much longer, I know quite a few that are really on the brink right now. They have been for some time and we’re really running out of hope so the sooner the borders open in a measured fashion, the better off we’ll be as a country.
“But the next challenge will be staffing those businesses and resuming the quality and delivery that we had pre-Covid.”
He wouldn’t be surprised if more New Zealanders sought greener pastures abroad, putting more pressure on staffing.
“Hopefully it won’t be to the point that we have a continuation of businesses only being able to trade certain days of the week, which we’ve already seen in the past couple of months.”
Cabinet is expected to discuss bringing forward the other reopening stages shortly.