COVID-19: Concerns some small tourist towns will be gone before trans-Tasman bubble opens

Pressure is mounting on the Government to reveal when a travel bubble will open to help struggling businesses survive.

National is concerned some smaller tourist towns may not be there anymore when Australian tourists are finally let in.

It comes after Ruapehu scenic flight operator Mountain Air announced it was closing after more than three decades due to the tough financial climate. 

National Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern owes the company a conversation. Ardern on Monday marked April 6 as the date she will make an announcement about a travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia. 

"Tourism up and down the country is desperate for the Prime Minister to announce the date that the trans-Tasman bubble will open," McClay told Newshub.

"Kiwi businesses are left languishing and day after day, we're seeing them announcing that they're having to close because of the uncertainty - they just can't hang on any longer. The Prime Minister needs to announce that date and get the border open."

McClay said all businesses are asking for is a date and the Government is letting them down.

"If they have an actual date, then their bank managers can work out with them how to get through, but they won't give a date.

"For some of them, it's costing them everything because they don't have certainty and they can't plan.

"I fear that, in a few weeks, the Prime Minister will announce a date which is after the school holidays - it's not clear to me why we couldn't have it open right now."

New Zealand is also at risk of losing its reputation as a tourist destination, McClay said. 

"We know that New Zealand is a destination that the world likes to travel to - what we face is if businesses keep closing, when those Australians want to come here and spend their money, there's much less for them to spend money on."

Ardern on Monday said opening up the bubble with Australia was "highly complex".

"Opening up our borders to our nearest neighbour is a priority - not only for tourism and business but also in terms of reuniting friends and families," she told a post-Cabinet press conference.

"We know what it would mean for people but we also know that many New Zealanders are nervous, they don't want to put everything we've fought so hard for at-risk and they want us to proceed with the same vein as our overall COVID response - and that is with caution."

At the weekend, a Newshub report into the South Island tourism sector revealed tourist towns on the West Coast were on the brink of collapse. 

"Through no fault of our own, really, the community is dying," said Fox Glacier's Rainforest Motel owner Andy Hodges.

"Financially, it's under stress. The community's depopulated as employees have left, so the fabric of the community is fraying at the edges."

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash last week promised to do what he could for New Zealand's hardest-hit destinations. 

"Things are tough here, it's probably the community that's doing the toughest of all our communities around the country," he told Newshub during a visit to the South Island town of Te Anau.

"We do need to do more. I've promised to go back and have a look and see if we can speed up that process.

"It's really me sitting down with these business leaders and civic leaders, finding out what's going on and where the stresses are and taking that back to [the] Cabinet."