Tourism Industry Aotearoa is asking for domestic travel restrictions to be dropped when New Zealand enters COVID-19 alert level 2, arguing it would be entirely safe to do so and would save thousands of jobs.
Under the pandemic alert level restriction guidelines released by the Government last month, non-essential domestic travel was ruled out until the country enters level 1.
But TIA is asking for the rules to be changed.
"Keeping the tourism industry closed for weeks, if not months, longer until we reach level 1 will put thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses at risk," says the association's chief executive Chris Roberts.
He says reconnecting families and communities is a social and economic necessity.
"Aviation, accommodation, hospitality, retail and most recreation and tourism activities can all be operated safely under level 2," says Roberts.
Tourism businesses are fully committed to operating in a safe and responsible manner, he adds.
"Level 2 operating guidelines are being developed for sectors and individual businesses, including provisions for comprehensive contact tracing," says Roberts.
"Many tourism businesses will simply not be viable if stringent travel restrictions continue at Level 2."
TIA uses Mt Ruapehu as an example, where he says only 2000 of the 25,000 ski season passholders live within 100km of the mountain.
"The level 2 guidelines specifically allow for activities like bungy jumping and kayaking tours to resume, but there's little point opening your business if you can only have locals as customers."
The association says businesses need to be able to begin taking bookings now, before its too late.
The statement from TIA comes after research released on Friday morning showed that three out of four Kiwis took an overnight domestic trip for leisure in the last year.
Those surveyed rated their experiences an average of 8.7 out of 10 and Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Hawke's Bay and the wider Canterbury region recorded the highest satisfaction levels.
"The next few months will be an amazing opportunity for Kiwis to experience the best New Zealand has to offer – and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to save the livelihoods of other Kiwis," says Roberts.
"We are calling on the Government to take a sensible and safe approach to kick starting our recovery."
The Government is yet to respond.