The Department of Conservation’s announcement that the concession activity fee waiver will end on 31 December is hugely disappointing, said Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
“The decision may well lead to tourism operators choosing to withdraw some of their products, such as scenic helicopter flights,” said TIA chief executive Chris Roberts.
“These operators whose businesses rely heavily on the international market have held on for as long as possible and can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this could be the final nail in the coffin for some.”
In May 2020, in the first Government support package for tourism businesses impact by the pandemic, the Department of Conservation received a $25m allowance to waive concession activity fees for 12 months. In May 2021, this waiver was extended for another six months, to 31 December 2021.
These were welcome measures that assisted some of the 1000 concessionaires to adjust their prices for a solely domestic market.
But TIA said the pressure on those concessionaires remains just as severe now, with current restrictions reducing domestic visitors, on top of continued closed borders.
TIA wrote to conservation minister Kiritapu Alleen in September asking for the fee waiver to be extended for another six months but has not received a reply.
“It is in the best interest of the Department of Conservation and the Government to recognise that tourism operators who have long worked with the department to manage visitors on the conservation estate are able to survive, to contribute those concession fees for many years to come,” Roberts said in the letter.
“The concession fee relief needs to continue at least until our borders are open to our main markets of Australia, China and USA. This is the approach taken by Government-owned Qualmark, which will remain free of charge until those three markets return.”
When the acting minister announced the first waiver extension, she announced that the waiver will be reviewed again later this year to either confirm the reinstatement of fees on January 1 2022 or provide a further waiver if extraordinary circumstances warrant it.
TIA argued we are still in extraordinary times and a further waiver is absolutely justified.