Tourism operators call on Govt to extend concession fee waiver

Source: 1News

Tourism businesses operating on DOC land are calling for a further extension to a concession fee waiver until international tourists return.

The levy will be re-introduced at the end of the year after the Government was stumping up the bill since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

Being able to enjoy nature comes at a cost for the operators and after 21 months of not paying it, they are coming back.

Tim Hunter from Southern Discoveries runs cruises in Milford Sound-Piopiotahi.

He is currently seeing about 10 per cent of the numbers he had in November 2019 and believes the decision to reinstate the fees is premature.

“We were quite stunned about that actually simply because we've still got Covid and we've got the weakest demand conditions we've had since Covid began,” Hunter said.

"The fee waiver was part of a package put together by the Government to make sure we could reduce the cost of tourism, so we all had a better chance to survive. I think it's important they keep the support there until we get to the finish line.”

It’s tough too for Queenstown helicopter company, Action Helicopters.

"We were hoping to continue until we had international tourism injected back into the country because domestic tourism is still pretty fickle," Action Helicopter's Nick Nicholson said.

Meanwhile, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts called the decision “tone deaf”.

"It doesn't recognise the reality for our operators who are still facing closed borders … and the cost is going to come back when we still don't know when the borders will reopen.”

The waiver was introduced in March last year, as the pandemic took hold. It was initially in place until June this year, before being extended for a further six months, costing the Government $25 million.

The money is used by DOC to fund biodiversity, visitor and heritage programmes.

In a statement, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan told 1News - the Government will continue to be flexible around payment options for businesses who are struggling.

The sector wants the fees gone until international tourism resumes.

"We're going to have to put it onto our tickets and it's going to be more expensive for the Kiwis,” Nicholson said.

“I think the right thing to do is extend that by another six months until we have the revenue to pay those fees again,” Hunter said.

Extra time to keep one of our biggest sectors ticking.