Queenstown tourism operator disappointed by Minister Stuart Nash's speech

A Queenstown tourism operator says he is disappointed Stuart Nash didn't spend more time talking to the sector, saying it felt like the Tourism Minister "didn't have time for us".

I-Fly indoor skydiving operator Matt Wong told Newshub Nation Nash's appearance in Queenstown on Friday was "invite only" - and 95 percent of tourism operators were not invited.

"There was a handful, hand-picked who attended but the message from his office was he didn't have time for us."

"Does he actually realise some of the pain and hurt we've gone through and how would he know that if he's not spoken to us?" Wong asked host Simon Shepherd. 

Nash spoke at the Otago University Tourism Policy School about the need for a new tourism industry in the wake of COVID-19.

He said as mass-scale international tourism was unlikely before 2022 he was "deeply concerned" about the plight of regions reliant on tourism like Queenstown.

"I am considering potential next steps till borders re-open, such as making it easier to hibernate firms and to startup again; help to diversify regional economies over-reliant on international tourism; and deployment of tourism workers to other sector."

Wong says the past year has been challenging.

"It's been really tough... It's almost like the silent killer - there's no ambulances, no sirens, there's no buildings collapsing -  so everyone is starting to forget the impact it's having on the industry but we wake up every morning and wonder if we're going to have customers."

Nash said on Friday he was concerned over the decline in business and targeted initiatives were "under consideration" to support the worst affected - but regional wage subsidies are "not sustainable or fair".

Wong says the lack of increased funding is disappointing, but not surprising.

"We're used to this now, we're used to hearing there's nothing more coming for us.

"For most tourism operators they're small ma and pa operations and they are still suffering... They got the wage subsidy but nothing else."

Nash said the industry could not return to the status quo, but that would not mean hard hit communities would be left behind.

"Regions heavily reliant on international tourism, dare I say it overly reliant on international tourism, should have a range of alternatives because we don't want to be in this situation again."