Andrew Olsen, TAANZ Andrew Olsen, TAANZ

Travel agents again left in dark

Travel agents are still wondering what needs to be done to get government acknowledgment that the industry needs to be supported. A list of tourism attractions were today announced as recipients of relief from the government's tourism fund. 'We were advised to look at this fund as an option,' says Andrew Olsen, TAANZ CEO. 'Unfortunately travel agents are not visitor attractions so that application process was not designed to include us.

'The industry brand leads have been engaged with MBIE for near on two months and our industry had been looking for some direction from government. Today's tourism support is great news for those businesses but I'm gutted for the many many travel agents who are still in the dark and have been forced to proceed with redundancy for staff as the wage subsidy comes to an end.

'We're hopeful the meeting Ministers Faafoi and Davis had yesterday landed on a solution to the plight of agents and the role they must continue to play in managing the $2b of travel agency customers' funds that are currently held in credits or waiting to be refunded. The ministers were going to 'instruct officials'. We're keen to know what 'the instruction' is and to which officials that instruction has been given so we can keep the focus on our need to be supported to ensure Kiwis travel funds are not lost.

'Time isn't on the industry's side. We're counting on this government to be a genuine and supportive partner, and now,' says Olsen.

Meantime, the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand (TECNZ) is urging Government to reconsider funding decision for inbound tour operators (ITOs).

'We acknowledge the Government has done its best to provide support for some parts of the wider tourism sector,' says chief executive Lynda Keene. 'But it was hugely frustrating to be informed by officials at the last minute that there will be no grant funding made available for inbound tour operators. The decision to offer loans will not help our
members, as they have no income coming in for 18 months.

'On behalf of our members, we urge the Government and decision makers to reconsider this decision. Failure to do so will lead to a huge loss in Intellectual Property across the sector and leave us unable to support local operators once borders re-open. Our inbound members are an integral part of the tourism sector. They link offshore travellers and agents with onshore product suppliers and will be a vital element to recovery when borders re-open.'

Information provided by Tourism NZ through its Research and Insights team suggests that 55% of all international visitors pre-Covid were booked through trade (offshore) and inbound tour operators in New Zealand which equates to $9.46bn of $17.2bn that international tourism export receipts earned for the New Zealand economy.

Keene says the decision by Government to not provide Strategic Tourism grant funding to ITOs was completely unexpected. 'We are a little perplexed that inbound tour operators are not considered to be
strategic tourism assets considering the Government’s heightened emphasis on health and safety and contact tracing. Inbound tour operators have always (pre-Covid) being able to trace every client/visitor
that is travelling around NZ of every hour of every day. Tourism NZ’s own research and insights supports the enhanced and expected role that inbound tour operators will play in the future when visitors return to NZ and that inbounds will be crucial to delivering on a visitor experience that meets new expectations under a post-COVID environment.'

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