Coronavirus: Some New Zealand businesses sticking with their pandemic pivot for good as borders reopen

The pandemic forced many businesses to pivot and change the way they work to survive.

But now we're past the peak and the borders are reopening, is it time to pivot back? Well, some New Zealand businesses aren't looking back and are sticking with their changes for good.

One of those people is Katrina Millar, who lives in Whangamatā, who's been running a successful water sports tourism business for 17 years.

Her surf 'n stay camps were packed and board hires were wild - until the pandemic hit.

"Everyone went away, everyone went," Millar said.

In the year after COVID hit, international tourism expenditure dropped more than 90 percent, or $15 billion. It also saw the loss of more than 72,000 jobs.

"Stand up paddleboarding up the estuary, kayaking, that sort of recreational activity stopped."

Half of their bookings were from overseas tourists. There was still the domestic market, but when Auckland was in lockdown, she said they may as well have been in lockdown too.

"The toughest moment was after that first lockdown. We actually realised that we had to change our business, it's not going to work the way we are with COVID," Millar said.

Katrina Millar.
Katrina Millar. Photo credit: Newshub.

They converted their shared accommodation to individual units and moved to online bookings and self check-ins.

They focused on guided kayak tours to Whenuakura Island to appeal to a wider group of people and families.

It kept their heads above water, but they were worried about getting through this winter. This prompted her to carve out a new career in real estate.

"I've loved it, it's really fun, it's quite similar to hosting people anyway, and showing them around Whangamatā and why we love living here, and now you can buy this house," Millar said.

But now she's seeing hires and bookings trickling back in, so she's pivoting back so she can do both - real estate sales and the water sports.

"We're quite excited about our winter ahead and with the borders opening there should be some tours filling up hopefully."

But it's not only international tourists she needs but qualified workers too.

"Summer-wise, yeah, it'll be on, we'll be on, so staff, we need you."

Helping her adopt a new business balance and stay prepared for the next wave.