The tourism industry “not the flavor of the month” with the banks

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.

François-Joseph Glacier
Photo: 123RF

Totally Tourism 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 for a number of long-established companies, including Glacier Helicopters in Franz Josef.

“We are fortunate to be a mature company and to have an understanding woman, but we are burning money and the carpets will not be replaced anytime soon,” Quickfall told the board.

He believed his business would survive, but had real concerns for a number of others.

“The latest government announcements (on reopening the borders) are understandable from a health perspective, but they will make the next 12 months very difficult for hotel and accommodation businesses. “

The recovery would be long, he predicted.

“We will get 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 will see more. 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 overseas supply chains would take a long time to rebuild, Quickfall warned.

“We’ve spent a lot of time promoting New Zealand off the coast, in Asia, Europe and the United States, working with wholesalers and convincing them to send people here for a great vacation.

“It’s been 20-30 years of hard work there, but a lot of companies have shut down or hibernated; a lot of product managers have quit their jobs and it will be a big education process to get people back on board.”

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.

“Tourism is no longer the flavor of the month with the banks. Your only options are to have strong cash reserves, to get someone to help you or to get more money from the bank and those options. run out. “

It didn’t help that tourism companies couldn’t renew concessions due to the delay in reviewing plans for the national park, Quickfall said.

“I’m going to be brave here,” Quickfall told DOC Western South Island board members and director Mark Davies. “The government’s management of access to tourism on 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 the 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 interim 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.

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