After more than two years of unprecedented disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is really pleasing that the tourism industry can look forward with confidence to the recovery.
Throughout the pandemic, TIA has supported the health-based response that clearly has saved many lives. We have also advocated strongly for control measures to be removed or adapted as soon as the rationale for those policies no longer stacks up.
Along the way, we have promoted the importance of getting vaccinated, and we advocated for earlier opening of borders, removal of MIQ requirements, removal of testing requirements for arriving visitors, and others.
In November 2021, TIA released its Roadmap to Recovery, and it is pleasing to see that the opening of borders and removal of isolation requirements has happened more quickly than even the more optimistic of the two scenarios that were developed. The implication of this is that the industry can recover earlier than it would have otherwise, with large gains for New Zealand in terms of earnings from international visitors.
Industry focus is now very much oriented to recovery, and there is much to do to recover in such a way that the industry delivers better and wider benefits for Aotearoa New Zealand.
The key initial step is the rebuilding of tourism businesses themselves, and there are challenges in doing this:
- The tourism workforce lost around 120,000 jobs, and it will not be easy to rebuild this pool of workers and their skills. This is the number one industry concern at present.
- Global supply-chain issues mean that rebuilding some of the physical network will be slower than ideal, for instance with restoring rental car fleets.
- Business processes need to be restored, with these including connections to the supply chain, product processes, and health and safety.
- Connections to markets also need to be restored, including the personal relationships that are so important in tourism.
Also, there are wider areas of needing attention:
- Rebuilding the all-important connectivity, particularly competitive aviation links to markets around the world and cruise connections.
- Ensuring that New Zealanders support and welcome our international visitors back in our midst is a top priority. The social licence of tourism was stretched prior to COVID, and it is very important we do not return to this position.
Much thought has been given to the future tourism industry through the COVID period. Government convened firstly the Tourism Futures Taskforce and then the Tourism Industry Transformation Plan that is specifically looking at the tourism workforce.
TIA as the custodian of the industry’s Tourism 2025 - Sustainable Growth Framework, is considering how and when to develop the replacement strategic framework to provide clear understanding of the longer-term aspirations of the industry and the key things we need to do to get there.