Sunday, November 28

Auckland’s summer lockdown could be the last straw for some tour operators

Tour operators relying on Auckland’s summer influx fear a death sentence if travel restrictions are not lifted by Christmas.

The caravan car travels on the road.

Jeroen Jongejans believes that most of Northalnd’s tourism businesses face a bleak outlook if the Auckland border remains in place during the summer. (File image)
Photo: 123RF

At the moment, free travel between Auckland and the rest of the country is dependent on regions meeting their 90 percent vaccination targets, which some operators believe is an unattainable target.

At Dive Tutukaka in Whangārei, Jeroen Jongejans compared running a tourism business amid current restrictions to “skating on jelly.”

Foreign visitors used to make up half of his customers, and of the rest, about 85 percent were Auckland residents, Jongejans said.

Now he is trying to plan a summer in which it is not clear if he will bring many people to the water.

“We earn our money, today, in December, January and the middle of February, because then everyone goes back to work and school and then it’s only on weekends,” he said.

“So if we don’t get 90 percent everywhere, if Auckland doesn’t open up for us, it will have a significant impact because most of our profits will not be achievable.”

Dive boats at the Tutukaka marina.  Several successful businesses have sprung up thanks to visitors to the Poor Knights Islands.

Dive boats at the Tutukaka marina before the pandemic.
Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Jongejans believed that most of Northland’s tourism businesses faced the same bleak outlook.

“My estimate is that if we don’t open halfway [through] Or at the end of January, I would think that 50 percent of the tourism businesses in Northland would probably cease to exist. “

At another summer hotspot south of the Auckland border, Coromandel Township, tour operators received a similar warning.

Driving Creek Railway CEO Neil Oppatt said many of the city’s businesses relied heavily on Auckland tourists converging there during the summer.

His zipline and scenic rail experiences used to attract about 60,000 people a year, but Oppatt said he was getting about a quarter of the usual numbers so far this month.

“When we get to Boxing Day, we hope that Auckland locals and Hamiltonians can come to the Coromandel. If that doesn’t happen, we just won’t make the reservations we need to make it through the following winter,” he said.

A wagon crossing a bridge on the Driving Creek Railway.

A wagon crossing a bridge on the Driving Creek Railway.
Photo: mwilliamsnz / 123RF

Unlike last summer, he said customers were hesitant to block his trips.

“People have now learned that it is not a good idea to book an Airbnb, or whatever, because there is a possibility that it will be canceled.”

Oppatt said the worst thing for tourism would be to bounce between alert levels, and so despite the difficulties, he supported keeping movement restrictions in place until he was sure hospitals would not be overwhelmed.

However, Ian Holroyd on Mount Maunganui felt the tourists’ patience was wearing thin.

He takes chartered trips across the country through his Classic Tours company, which he said had turned into a logistical nightmare, with four different alert level variations to deal with.

Holroyd believed that some regions would miss the 90 percent vaccination target this summer, and Auckland residents would not wait.

“I think there will be a riot. I think people will just leave. And that may mean that the government just bends its principles and says ‘okay, we haven’t arrived yet, but you need your Christmas, that’s it.’ ,” he said.

The government has said it was committed to ensuring that Auckland residents could leave the city for the summer holidays.

One suggestion is that people with double vaccinations and those who test negative for Covid-19 can leave the region at Christmas.

Specific details have yet to be revealed and cannot come quickly enough for tour operators.

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