The uncertainty for tourism operators as soon as borders closed on 19 March for foreign nationals was an incredibly stressful and difficult time. There was nothing similar in our strategic playbooks to make a plan. Some responded with instant indefinite closures, hibernations and redundancies. Others chose to sit tight to see how things played out.
Since then, after the successful enforced lockdown period, the tourism industry has been able to reopen to a domestic only market environment. Early on in the new level 2 and level 1 environments there was realistic impetus for a “trans-tasman bubble” to allow a broader tourism market while the rest of the world remained in the grip of covid.
By the end of July however, Australia has been hit with a serious second wave in Victoria putting any plans for a trans-tasman bubble on hold. Wage subsidies are coming to an end and we are still no closer to borders reopening. The uncertainty is still a massive inhibitor for tourism businesses to make decisions.
So what has played out in the tourism market since lockdown? What has surprised us?
- Domestic tourists have embraced the ability to move around their own country freely in a covid environment, they are spending money on accommodation, hospitality and activities. They are showing support for tourism and wanting to make the most of our freedoms within New Zealand after a lockdown period which temporarily took those freedoms away. Tourism NZ’s “Do something NEW New Zealand” campaign sent out the message for kiwis to travel, and despite a looming recession they certainly have.
- Tourism businesses are readjusting and “pivoting” to suit the domestic traveller. For some this means large discounts (which doesn’t help anyone), but for the more astute it’s about modifying product offerings to capture the interests and budgets of their target market.
- Domestic travellers in the luxury market do exist. Many have had their overseas holiday cancelled and so are applying that same sort of budget and spend pattern to a New Zealand holiday.
- For many areas, outside of school holidays, demand seems to be more on weekends so businesses to need to plan their staffing and availability around the busier days.
- In many areas of New Zealand visitor numbers in these winter months are exceeding the same period last year. While this is a fantastic response, there is still only cautious optimism as we approach traditionally busier months of spring and summer when the presence of international visitors will be ominously missing. There is no expectation that domestic tourism can entirely replace what the international market also provides.
We’d love to hear your opinions and experiences in the market since reopening from lockdown. Please use the comments section below to share what’s been happening in your area and how your local tourism businesses are getting on.