COVID-19: Job losses in tourism and related sectors could reach 100,000 - Tourism Industry Aotearoa

  • 17/03/2020
COVID-19: Job losses in tourism and related sectors could reach 100,000 - Tourism Industry Aotearoa
Photo credit: Getty

Correction: This article was amended on Tuesday 17 March because it incorrectly identified Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts as being from Tourism New Zealand.

Most of the business community has welcomed the Government's COVID-19 package, but Tourism Industry Aotearoa says it will not save our big operators and job losses in the industry could reach 100,000.

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has had an immediate devastating impact on Cole and Natalie Lions who run Roaring Wine Tours in central Otago.

"It's got to be close to $9000 worth of bookings just in the last couple of days," Cole Lions told Newshub. "Me and my wife own this. There is no one else. This is our livelihood."

The vineyards they tour are just as concerned.

"Nobody could have budgeted for this, so my main concern is being able to pay staff and keep staff," said Carolyn Murray, venue manager of the vineyard Space at the Base.  

Both will qualify for wage subsidies even just to pay themselves. Businesses are eligible for up to $150,000 and the Prime Minister says that cash could be paid out within five days.

Wage subsidies are available to all affected businesses no matter the size - but the sector hit hardest says the caps are problematic.

"That cap of $150,000 per employer means you can subsidise no more than 20 jobs," Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts said. "We've got businesses who are looking to lay off 50, 100, 300 workers at the moment."

Roberts has a stark warning: "There are almost 400,000 New Zealanders whose jobs depend on tourism... even with the support package; I think at least a quarter of those jobs are at risk right now."

The big operators like ski fields can feed back into those small operators in Queenstown.

"We feel a responsibility to do everything we can to get up and operational so we can breathe some life into this town in winter," NZ Ski's Paul Anderson told Newshub.

This is not an isolated tourism crisis. It will impact the entire economy and there will be job losses across other sectors.

"For those marginal cases where, maybe the firm can keep someone on, maybe they can't - that's where this package can make a difference," ANZ Bank chief economic Sharon Zollner said.

And overall, the package is getting a big pass mark from businesses.

"You can't help but give it an A. It's probably of the most significant economic support packages we've seen in recent history," Business NZ's Kirk Hope said.

Business New Zealand is also calling on Kiwis to exercise patriotism in their spending. They say don't shop online overseas - support the businesses in your own backyard.

Buy New Zealand made and ultimately help to keep Kiwis in jobs.