Transport World supports calls for inter-regional travel in Level 2

6th May 2020

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts, and our own regional development agency Great South, are among the voices calling for the Government to reconsider domestic travel restrictions proposed for Level 2 of the national COVID-19 response.

Transport World is fully supportive of inter-regional travel resuming once New Zealand reaches Level 2 in its COVID-19 restrictions.

Statement from Hannah Whyte, tourism and marketing manager – Transport World:

New Zealand’s team of five million people has done an incredible job, and it’s thanks to the measures we all took together at Levels 3 and 4 that we’re now able to start looking forward. Like the rest of New Zealand, we want our response to the COVID-19 crisis to continue to be successful and we’re starting to think about what Level 2 might look like.

There’s been lots of advocacy in the tourism industry, asking for the Government to allow inter-regional travel under Level 2, and Transport World is keen to see this happen too. We’re confident Transport World’s attractions can operate safely at Level 2, minimising contact between our guests and tracking their movements.

The impact of COVID-19 on New Zealand’s tourism industry, including the industry here in Southland, has been catastrophic. Although we desperately want to remain open and keep welcoming guests, the hard truth is that if we can’t open our doors again and get a viable number of guests coming soon, we may not be able to keep Transport World’s attractions and accommodation open.

We’ve gone from hosting tens of thousands of visitors a year, to zero, virtually overnight and many other tourism operators here in Southland are in the same boat. We’re concerned that a region like Southland, with its smaller population, will end up disadvantaged in comparison to other regions as we all try to recover. Our region’s population is just not big enough to support Southland’s tourism attractions on its own, which is why we need to encourage other Kiwis to explore our region too. Attractions like Transport World need the support of Kiwis and Southlanders, to remain sustainable. 

Transport World is just one of the many tourism operators here in Southland and Fiordland that contribute to our region’s economy, employing local people and bringing visitor dollars to our communities. There are dozens of small and medium-sized tourism and hospitality businesses that help keep our economy ticking over, and they’re all going to be relying on the support of Kiwis in order to carry on for the foreseeable future.

Until the recent Covid-19 crisis, Transport World had directly created more than 150 new tourism and hospitality jobs in the city, from entry-level positions through to management, and we regularly work with more than 30 local suppliers. The flow-on effects created by tourism businesses like ours play a huge part in Southland’s economy, and that’s why it’s so important for us to be given our best chance to recover.

Hannah Whyte has a decade of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, with a career working in tourism roles for both local government and the private sector.

Statement from Adam Reinsfield, events manager – TW Events & Incentives:

Tourism has taken a massive knock because of COVID-19, and a really important part of that is the toll this crisis has had on the business events industry, which has been decimated as a result. This has had a huge impact on the Kiwi economy, including here in Southland, and unfortunately TW Events & Incentives is in the same boat as every other industry player right now.

Numerous bookings have been cancelled and we have no idea when business might be able to begin again. That means we don’t know when we are going to be able to recover from this, or even if we are going to be able to recover at all.

Southland will be in a comparatively difficult position if Level 2 restrictions don’t allow inter-regional travel to resume. We’ve got a limited population compared to other regions. It’s a big climb for Southlanders to go it alone – Southland events businesses can’t survive solely on local custom.

The health and safety of our guests is always our main priority and we’ve spent a lot of time planning and preparing for how we could operate with measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. When our business resumes we would continue to stay up-to-date with and implement strategies around this as directed by regulations imposed by the Government, to ensure we were working to industry best practice.

We’d continue to stick to any regulations put in place by Government around this. We’re prepared to ensure we’re maintaining really strong physical distancing, practicing a high level of hygiene, and keeping track of everybody who comes through our doors. With those measures in place, we’re ready to start operating again.

From a financial perspective, industry authorities like Conventions and Incentives New Zealand are estimating a lost revenue of $322 million from the events industry this year alone.

When it comes to looking at how business events guests travel, they often use the reason of travelling to a destination for a corporate event as a reason to extend their stay: so that means they’re in other regions for longer, seeing more sights than the typical leisure tourist, visiting more places, meeting more people, and generally engaging with the local community in a really meaningful way. And that all means an increase in the social, cultural, and economic spin-offs for regions like Southland.

Even in a best-case scenario, it is going to take a huge amount of time for our industry to start recovering from this and it’s impossible to estimate losses going into 2021 and beyond. However, while domestic demand remains uncertain and international business events, at best, massively reduced, income for most organisations is set to remain well below half of what our industry was generating before COVID-19. We need to put our best foot forward, and inter-regional travel gives us a shot.

Adam Reinsfield boasts more than 15 years in a variety of roles throughout the events industry, having spent time living and working in both the Waikato and Southland regions.