Coronavirus: Government-signalled funding for tourism industry 'too late' for some

The Government is signalling a lifeline for the struggling tourism industry in a specific package in Thursday's Budget.

But for some in the sector, it's too little too late, and people have been forced to change their jobs.

Sam Sutton and his team from Rotorua Rafting changed their work scenery. They usually spent their days running a rafting business, but now they work in construction building decks and retaining walls.

With the borders closed and the country in lockdown, Sutton didn't want to lose his expert staff, so he set up a landscaping business to keep them employed. 

"Staff are basically the only irreplaceable asset we have in our business. We can sell a van and we can buy another one, but we can't buy new staff and keep our product at the same level," he says.

Holding on to talent in our tourism industry is key. The Government has funded a program to link staff with businesses who need them. But a lot of those businesses are looking at drastic cuts, one person says.

"To be honest, there's a really real chance, along with many other businesses, that we just won't survive," Haka Tourism Group general manager Eva Lawrence says.

The business will potentially slash its workforce from 184 down to just 13 jobs, and Lawrence wants to see the wage subsidy extended drastically. 

"Extended to potentially 26 weeks, if not further," she says.

Domestic tourism is on the cards under alert level 2, but that'll only have the sector operating at about 20 percent capacity. There are fears that Kiwis won't spend their money, the NZ Māori Tourism CEO says.

"This is why the whole unemployment thing is so important to me, [because] if people haven't got money to spend, guess what, they're not going to have an experience," Pania Tyson-Nathan says.

The Tourism Minister is asking the sector to hold on a little longer because Thursday's Budget will have a tourism rescue and recovery package.

"People will have to wait just a couple more days to see what's in it and how it will help them," Kelvin Davis says.

But Les Morgan from Sudima Hotels says some couldn't wait and now jobs are gone.

"The further subsidy has come too late. We made those decisions now because once we go through the consultation period and the notice period, the subsidy's gone, so those jobs haven't been saved," he says.