National | Border

Getting tourism staff to return the first focus for the industry

What will tourism operators do first now the government is reopening the borders, first to Australia from April 12 and then from other countries on May 1?

Getting back staff is their first focus, says one industry longtimer.

MDA Experiences owner and director Takurua Mutu, who has been a tourism operator for more than 30 years, joined Te Ao Tapatahi to discuss whether the government's changes to the border dates will revive the tourism industry. His own firm has suffered badly due to the closed borders.

“Knowing that the borders are going to reopen, obviously, that means we have an opportunity to now gain some of that ground that we lost with Covid restrictions put in.”

But when borders do open, it’s still a long journey to get the industry back to what it once was.

Capability gone

“There’s a bit of a rebuild that we have to do now. Some of that capability is gone across the industry. Some of those partner products that we used to work with have gone. I think about that beautiful sailing boat named Tiua that lives on Lake Rotoiti, and that is set to close within the next couple of months.

“It’s gonna be a really interesting time. While there’s a bit of excitement to regain some of that lost revenue that we had in the past, there’s a bit of apprehension knowing that there’s a fair bit of capability building that needs to happen.”

Even with internationals allowed to come back into the country soon, attracting tourists from both near and afar to his business isn’t necessarily the focus for Mutu at the moment.

“It’s actually trying to attract people back to our industry. The tourism industry has been absolutely decimated for staff, and that comes back to that capability thing. So we have a big job ahead of us of trying to convince people this is a great industry, come back to it, and we’ll show you a lifestyle that you can maintain for years to come.

"There’s a perception that we don’t necessarily provide long-term options for people. That’s the change that we need to make as a business, to look after our staff.

“If we look after our staff well enough, they’ll look after our visitors.”