Omicron uncertainty sparks new wave of hospitality cancellations

Omicron uncertainty sparks new wave of hospitality cancellations
Photo credit: Getty Images

This story was originally published by RNZ.

Some in the tourism industry are taking another hit as the threat of a full-scale Omicron outbreak prompts people to cancel their holiday plans.

Some travel and accommodation providers say cancellations have increased since the country moved to the red traffic light setting at midnight on Sunday. Others say they have barely noticed a difference ahead of the three-day weekend for Auckland Anniversary Day.

Aucklander PJ Taylor could have gone on holiday for anniversary weekend. Instead, he is staying home because of the risk of Omicron.

"If we went away and we were exposed or identified as a close contact, then we would have to isolate in that particular area and that would mean that we wouldn't be able to go to work and we would be away from our home."

However, the threat of an outbreak has not deterred everyone. Jo Edmonds from the Top 10 Holiday Park on the Coromandel Peninsula said they were nearly fully booked this weekend.

"We have had a couple of cancellations because events or weddings that people were coming for have been cancelled, but that's about it. No other cancellations really."

Whitianga's Salt Restaurant and Bar bar manager Jacob Callesen said there had been little difference in their bookings.

"The weekends are pretty booked out. Throughout the week it's pretty cruisy, but I mean that's how it is around Whitianga anyways ... We haven't had too many cancellations or anything like that since our red light settings kicked in."

Some other tourism businesses have noticed a change. Jucy Snooze operates hotels in the South Island. Its managing director, Tim Alpe, said more people were deciding not to travel.

"We definitely have some cancellations, and we've also seen a sort of a slowdown in booking inquiry. I think mainly due to just the uncertainty and the concern about what's going to happen and what that will mean to people's travel plans with respect to this outbreak."

Alpe said cancellations were coming from all parts of the country and it was not easy for businesses.

"It's devastating on top of already pretty challenging environment as a result of Covid and international borders being closed, and I think just to have yet another challenge put in front of us is very difficult."

House of Travel chief operating officer Brent Thomas said they had fielded some cancellations, but the vast majority of New Zealanders were still choosing to travel. He said he expected there would be some hesitation about making bookings, but he doubted that would last long.

"What we can see from overseas is Omicron has a very steep increase in case numbers, but it also comes down very quickly, so those bookings are expected to come in and people will set out to travel pretty quickly once the case numbers start to peak and come down."

Thomas urged those who choose to travel to keep safe.

"Make sure they've got good masks to wear. Make sure that they are washing their hands frequently, particularly before and after flights and travel, particularly after going through things like taxis or Ubers, making sure that they are cleaning their hands regularly as they travel around."

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand said since the country moved to red, it had seen a slight decline in bookings and a rise in cancellations, particularly from corporate customers.