Saturday, November 27

DOC will no longer exempt tour operators from concession fees

Tourism leaders warn that companies may withdraw or withdraw some activities after the Department of Conservation (DOC) announced that it will stop waiving concession fees.

A section of the new boardwalk in Te Papakura or Taranaki / Egmont National Park.

A section of the new boardwalk in Te Papakura or Taranaki / Egmont National Park.
Photo: Supplied / DOC

Tourism concessionaires using public conservation land have been waived their fees for nearly two years to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on their sector.

On Wednesday, the DOC confirmed that the fee waiver would end on December 31.

The DOC received $ 25 million to allow it to waive the concession activity fees for 12 months, which was then extended for another six months in May.

DOC Deputy Director General for Policy and Visitors Bruce Parkes said the concession fees were vital revenue for the department to carry out its biodiversity, visitor and heritage services.

The DOC estimated that about $ 10 million in revenue was lost as a result of the exemption.

“This impacts the work of protecting our special places and species for the benefit of New Zealanders and future international tourists,” he said.

“We recognize that times are still tough and that there will still be some struggling tour operators.” DOC is committed to working with those operators on a case-by-case basis, when necessary.

“However, after nearly two years and with New Zealanders continuing to travel within the country, the government has determined that the fee waiver must end.”

There were other more specific resources and support available to tourism businesses, including the $ 400 million Tourism Recovery Package, he said.

“Almost all tourism concession fees collected by the DOC are based on the level of activity of the operators, so if an operator has fewer clients, it will pay proportionally less in fees. If it stops operating temporarily, it will not pay any fees. of ‘activity’, but they will continue to charge annual management and monitoring fees “.

Aotearoa Tourism Industry Executive Director Chris Roberts said it was a very disappointing announcement.

“These operators whose businesses are heavily dependent on the international market have held out for as long as possible and can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this could be the final nail in the coffin for some.”

The decision could lead to tour operators opting to withdraw some of their activities, he said.

The exemption was a welcome measure, helping some of the 1,000 dealers to adjust their prices for the domestic market.

But Roberts said the pressure on dealerships remains just as severe with current restrictions reducing domestic visitors, as well as continued closed borders.

The association asked the conservation minister to extend the fee waiver for another six months in September, but received no response.

“It is in the best interest of the Department of Conservation and the Government to recognize that tour operators who have long worked with the department to manage visitors on the conservation estate can survive, contribute to the concession rights for many more years. . “Roberts said in the letter.

He urged the Commerce Department to reconsider the decision and offer a waiver of the concession fee until the borders to major markets in Australia, China and the United States are reopened.

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