• Thu. Sep 22nd, 2022

Tourism industry hopes minister will come up with solutions to industry challenges

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Aug 9, 2022

The tourism industry is hoping Tourism Minister Stuart Nash will come up with solutions to the challenges facing his sector.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash is due to speak at the Navigating the Future conference in Nelson today.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The Tourism Export Council of New Zealand is hosting its ‘Navigating the Future’ conference in Nelson this week.

The program confirms that Nash will speak at the conference on Wednesday afternoon with the three co-chairs of the tourism industry transformation plan, Gráinne Troute, Heather Kirkham and John Crocker.

Less than an hour’s drive away, in the Tasmanian town of Mārahau, Brendan Alborn operates the Abel Tasman AquaTaxi, Mārahau Sea Kayaks, Mārahau Beach Camp, Abel Tasman Center and Hooked Restaurant.

It has always faced labor issues as it is a seasonal business with 80% of its business volume arriving between mid-October and the end of March.

During Covid, he said, this had been amplified to the point that their restaurant couldn’t open its regular hours because they couldn’t have enough staff, especially those on working holiday visas.

They needed 25-30 more people before business started.

Alborn hoped the government would consider further visa changes to make it easier for more foreign workers to enter, to ease the pressure ahead of the summer.

“It really needs to be open, so it’s not a skills-based or qualification-based visa, it’s people who can come in and do these jobs that don’t specifically require qualifications, they just can – to have a little experience, but just a lot of good attitude.”

It would be debilitating if the demand came back this summer and they couldn’t meet it because they didn’t have enough staff, he said.

Paradice Entertainment offers ice skating, mini golf, escape rooms and laser tag in Auckland, as well as seasonal events across the country.

Chief executive Chris Blong said staffing was his biggest challenge right now, whether it was struggling to find enough staff or filling gaps when people were sick.

He was delighted that there seemed to be a lot going on in the events industry and hoped they would face fewer hurdles in their recovery.

“It’s anything that helps them prepare for the summer that will make the biggest difference.

“I think the urgency of things is really important and it’s also being able to anticipate, not just be reactionary.”

It was important to have long-term plans like the tourism industry transformation plan and aim to attract high-value tourists, but that would not be an immediate change and the industry needed to get back on its feet. in the short term, Blong said.

“While it’s great to have these wonderful plans and everything, I think it takes more anticipation and going faster because from what I can see in the rest of the world they can move faster than we are.”

The initial focus of the tourism industry transformation plan is to address labor issues in the tourism and hospitality industries.

Late last year, the government-funded initiative Go With Tourism organized a wānanga to develop solutions to improve and develop the workforce.

Program director Heidi Gillingham said she hoped some of the suggestions would be included in the government’s plan to address labor issues.

“The tourism and hospitality agreement obviously got a lot of attention initially, so it’ll be quite interesting to see what they decide to do with it, and obviously following some of the training talks and the industry mics, there’s been quite a lot of movement.”

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