New Zealand tourism operators welcome COVID-19 alert level change, but need Aucklanders

Most of Aotearoa moves to COVID-19 alert level 3 on Wednesday.
Most of Aotearoa moves to COVID-19 alert level 3 on Wednesday. Photo credit: Getty Images

Tourism operators around the motu are a step closer to getting back to business but most will not be able to open their doors until New Zealand reaches COVID-19 alert level 2, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) says.

The association has welcomed the Government announcement that all of Aotearoa south of Auckland will move to level 3 from 11.59pm on August 31 as the first step in lifting restrictions.

Tourism will remain significantly affected by the latest lockdown for some time to come, TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says.

"Inter-regional travel is not possible under alert level 3. Hopefully, in a week or two, some parts of the country will be back to level 2, and safe travel can resume," he says.

"However, Aucklanders are the biggest source of domestic visitors and while Auckland remains at a higher alert level, it severely limits how much domestic tourism activity is seen around the rest of the country.

"The reality is that domestic tourism will not be able to fully resume until all of New Zealand is at level 2.

That means tourism operators could be facing a long period with little or no revenue, other than Government support from the wage subsidy and resurgence payment.

"Tourism was the first industry to be affected by the pandemic and will be the last to recover. Tourism businesses face significant financial challenges in getting through the coming weeks. For many, the most useful thing they can do right now is encourage their staff, their whānau and everyone they know to get vaccinated," Roberts says.

"The higher the vaccination rate, the greater likelihood that we can get on top of this virus and enjoy the freedom to travel again."

It's expected Auckland will remain at COVID-19 alert level 4 for at least another two weeks.