Concern over glaciers when tourism is “not the flavor of the month”
A leading South Island tourism operator has warned that banks lack goodwill towards the industry as the impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt.
Totally Tourism Ltd owner and director Mark Quickfall briefed the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board on the state of adventure tourism in the south almost two years after the loss of international visitors.
The company is the umbrella company of several long established companies, including Glacier Helicopters in Franz Josef.
âWe’re lucky to be a mature company and to have an understanding wife, but we’re burning money and the carpets won’t be replaced anytime soon,â Quckfall told the board.
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He believed his business would survive, but had real concerns for a number of others.
“The latest government announcements [on reopening borders] are understandable from a health perspective, but will make the next 12 months very difficult for hotel and accommodation businesses.
The recovery would be long, he predicted.
“We will have Auckland [visitors] back it will be fantastic and if we get australia it will probably be enough to keep a lot of businesses going. But if we don’t get Australia soon, I’m afraid we’ll see more of them disappear. “
He wasn’t sure there would be a huge adoption if Australians were to self-isolate for seven days when the borders reopened in April.
“But until we get those other markets back, it’s a pretty risky situation.”
Broken supply chains overseas would take a long time to rebuild, Quckfall warned.
âWe’ve spent a lot of time promoting New Zealand overseas, in Asia, Europe and the US, working with wholesalers and convincing them to send people here for a great vacation.
âIt’s been 20 to 30 years of hard work there, but a lot of businesses have shut down or put into hibernation; a lot of product managers have quit their jobs, and it’s going to be a big education process to get people back in.
His company had kept as many staff as possible, and the government’s Jobs for Nature program in the southwest of the country had helped keep people in Franz Josef.
But Quickfall said he met four tourism business owners last week who were threatened with closure.
âTourism is no longer up to date with banks. Your only options are to have strong cash reserves; get someone to support you or get more money from the bank and those options run out.
The fact that tourism companies were unable to renew concessions due to the delay in reviewing plans for national parks did not help, he said.
“I’m going to be brave here,” Quickfall told board members and West South Island Conservation Department director Mark Davies.
âThe government’s management of tourist access to public land is quite awkward and it is a big problem for tourism and the economy. If you don’t have security of tenure, you don’t have a business. And banks don’t lend money to tourism businesses as they are.
“So if I have to go see my bank manager and he says, ‘Your landings in Milford, where are they? And they expire on December 31 of this year, where does that leave you? “
However, Totally Tourism’s Franz Josef heli-hike operation had secured a one-year provisional concession to land higher on the glacier than the Westland National Park management plan allowed.
Davies said this was because the locations designated in the plan for helicopter landings had become unsafe due to increased rockfall as the glacier retreated.
The conservation council has contributed to the plans for the national parks and should consider moving to a more effects-based system for handling aircraft landings in the parks, rather than having fixed locations like now, Davies said.
Conservation Council Chairman Mike Legge said he expected reviews of the stalled park plan to resume next year.