Tourism boss pleads for mental health support as industry buckles under coronavirus outbreak

Source: 1News

As the tourism industry buckles under the pressures of the coronavirus outbreak, one of the industry's leaders is pleading for the Government to include mental health in its upcoming support package.

A funding package is expected to be announced tomorrow, with details yet to be confirmed.

But Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts hopes that as well as supporting the business' expenses and funding, there'll be something to help their mental wellbeing.

"This is an incredibly stressful time for workers and employers and they need to be able to access those services," he told TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning.

"We had people in tears over the phone over the weekend, ringing up not sure that businesses that they've built up over generations are going to survive this.

"We've never seen anything like this in the history of New Zealand tourism."

Speaking to Breakfast this morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government's already focused on mental health and wellbeing as a key investment area.

People can call or text 1737 at any time for free support through the national telehealth service.

"That is available at all times, I encourage people to use it," she says.

"But we are also very mindful that one of the ways we can support people's wellbeing is to support their financial wellbeing as well."

As well as the mental health support, Mr Roberts is hopeful that the package will include wage subsidies and tax relief.

He says the industry is in "survival mode".

Over the weekend, new restrictions were announced to try and curb the global outbreak's spread to New Zealand.

International arrivals are being made to self-isolate for 14 days and eGates are out of action for the time being, effective this morning.

In total, it's expected the Covid-19 outbreak will cost the tourism industry more than $10 billion this year, losing out on $350 million a week.

"We're now moving to a situation where there are essentially zero international visitors, and that will be for some time," Mr Roberts says.

"It will go way beyond the current restriction because even if that's lifted at some point, the visitors won't just come back suddenly."

Mr Roberts says the industry is "very passionate", with people in tourism dedicating their days to supporting visitors.

"They love their job, they love what they do, and now their customers are gone for the foreseeable future, their income is gone, they don't know if they can feed families or keep those loyal staff on," he says.

"It's pretty devastating for a lot of people."

Two new Covid-19 cases were announced yesterday, an Australian man visiting Wellington and a Danish woman visiting Queenstown. It brings the total number of cases in New Zealand to eight.