Covid-19: After 18 months of silence, Fender Leathers tour guide is back

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Fender Leathers said it had been a long time since he took a group of visitors around the Agrodome in Rotorua.

In fact, it’s been 18 months – you can’t see it.

Things was on board the Agrodome tour with a group of enthusiastic children from Ngongotaha Kindy, as the attraction owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism held its first tour since Covid-19 forced the attraction to close.

Farming crew chief Ben Buckingham said the day was all about getting rid of rust before the Dec. 16 opened to the general public.

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THINGS

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“All the little things that we’ve forgotten, we can button them up,” he said.

Fender leathers certainly did not need to be fine-tuned.

As he drove the tractor on December 9, with eager visitors towed through some of the 350 acres that make up the farm experience, he looked unlike a man who hadn’t delivered his spiel in over. a year-and-a-half.

As the tractor stopped for the children to feed impatient sheep, he gave a quick warning.

“Watch where you are walking. There are a few lamb mines around.

The children of Ngongotaha Kindy were among the first people in 18 months to visit the Agrodome farm as the business seeks to get rid of the rust before it reopens to the general public.

Tom Lee / Stuff

The children of Ngongotaha Kindy were among the first people in 18 months to visit the Agrodome farm as the business seeks to get rid of the rust before it reopens to the general public.

He told the children that there were around 38 million sheep in New Zealand “the last time I checked” and that despite the borders being closed, there were international guests.

Cows from India and Scotland, sheep from England, alpacas from South America.

However, it is the two-legged visitors to Auckland, and next year abroad, that New Zealand’s tourism industry looks forward to.

The financial losses and job losses have been significant, said Aotearoa tourism industry chief Chris Roberts.

Provided

The financial losses and job losses have been significant, said Aotearoa tourism industry chief Chris Roberts.

The impact of the international absence was explained by General Manager of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Chris Roberts.

It’s a billion dollars a month.

“Total losses in tourism spending for 2020 and 2021 exceed $ 26 billion,” he said.

There were other costs as well.

Roberts said his Tourism Satellite Account, an official measurement of New Zealand’s tourism sector dating back 12 months and including closed borders and closures, found 72,285 jobs had been lost.

“A third of all those employed in tourism have left. “

Roberts said that number included 6,738 working owners: owner-operators he described as the “backbone” of the visitor industry.

There were certainly no complaints from the Ngongotaha Kindy children, or the herd of starving alpacas who rushed to greet them and their buckets of pellets.

Tom Lee / Stuff

There were certainly no complaints from the Ngongotaha Kindy children, or the herd of starving alpacas who rushed to greet them and their buckets of pellets.

“This is the first time that we have been able to accurately measure the impact of Covid-19 on our industry,” said Roberts.

“While the numbers are not surprising, they do reinforce the catastrophic impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. “

Roberts said the data included a small bright spot, a 2.6% increase in domestic spending from before the pandemic, although it’s realistic to say that it didn’t do much to make up for the 91.5% drop in international spending.

Roberts said that while TIA has been able to gather data using its member surveys and databases, we’ll likely never know exactly how many tourism businesses have hit the wall.

“This is not a question that anyone can answer precisely,” he said.

“Part of the reason is that the definition of a tourism business is so broad: accommodation, transportation, tour operators, activities and attractions, as well as the wide range of suppliers. There is no centralized repository of official statistics on the performance of “tourism businesses”.

Roberts said Things that while the sector had faced challenges in the past, citing the September 11 attacks and the SARS epidemic in 2003, nothing compares to Covid.

Visitors hiked some of the Agrodome's 350 acres, stopping to meet sheep, alpacas, deer, and a few turkeys.

Tom Lee / Stuff

Visitors hiked some of the Agrodome’s 350 acres, stopping to meet sheep, alpacas, deer, and a few turkeys.

“Never before have our borders been closed to all international visitors. No one would ever have predicted that the borders could remain closed to international visitors for nearly two years. “

This sentiment was echoed by Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s General Manager of Corporate Services, Jo Allison.

“The pandemic has brought a lot of adversity, uncertainty and economic turmoil over the past 18 months and the impacts are expected to be felt in the years to come.”

Allison said Ngāi Tahu Tourism faced additional hurdles during the shutdown period, having animals to care for at the Agrodome and their Rainbow Springs operations regardless of borders and closures.

She said they had five employees at Agrodome alone to take care of the animals.

“Keeping these five kaimahi teams was also important because they have a lot of experience and knowledge which is so important for us to reopen. “

Roberts said that while operators have greatly appreciated the support New Zealanders have given to their businesses, “it is only when we are able to welcome our international manuhiri again that we will see a sustained recovery.” .

This Agrodome inhabitant did not have his head in the sand when it came to the reopening date.

Tom Lee / Stuff

This Agrodome inhabitant did not have his head in the sand when it came to the reopening date.

However, it won’t be as simple as opening the border on April 30 next year.

Roberts said the government has indicated a phased approach and other hurdles may emerge such as the seven-day home isolation requirement.

“Some international visitors may come to see family and friends when the borders reopen with this home isolation requirement in place, but we will see few leisure travelers when it is lifted.”

Allison also said Things the pandemic required agility and adaptability.

“The schedule of visits, prices, promotions and more flexibility,” she said.

For one Rotorua attraction, the Redwoods Treewalk, now is the time to invest more in the business in anticipation of the Auckland border reopening, and adaptation to survive has also been essential for another Rotorua attraction. .

Hell’s Gate chief executive Paul Rayner said Covid-19 forced them to “take a look at the business from top to bottom.”

Even the four-legged “staff” of Agrodome seemed eager to welcome visitors again.

Tom Lee / Stuff

Even the four-legged “staff” of Agrodome seemed eager to welcome visitors again.

He said the pandemic has proven to be “the ultimate disruptor” to the tourism industry and hit them with “countless setbacks”.

They opened their doors as a vaccination center and found a new focus.

“For us, it has reignited the way we implement tikanga in all aspects of our business. It has encouraged us to create a corporate culture where everyone has a voice at the table and the results have been remarkable since then, ”he said.

Among the notable changes, Rayner said the main building at Hells Gate has been completely renovated to provide an authentic Māori experience for local visitors. They also rethought their marketing strategies, further reducing the flyers and posters that once made up the majority of their marketing almost entirely from their plans.

“It’s a new ball game, international tourists have been deprived of tourism. This meant that our strategy and our offer were not being used to their full potential, ”he said.

“The key to success this summer will be creating an attraction that is the Kiwi at its heart.”

One Rotorua attraction used its time to invest more, another looked at the business “from top to bottom”.  Pictured is a couple at the Champagne Pool in Wai-O-Tapu Rotorua.

Provided

One Rotorua attraction used its time to invest more, another looked at the business “from top to bottom”. Pictured is a couple at the Champagne Pool in Wai-O-Tapu Rotorua.

Rayner said there was solidarity in knowing that everyone faced their own challenges related to Covid, and he called on all operators to act with manaakitanga in mind.

Roberts also summed up what many in the tourism industry have said. Things.

“Kiwi vacationers have been the lifeblood of many tourism businesses over the past two years,” he said.

“Tourism operators will welcome Kiwis with open arms this summer, but are desperate to welcome again high-value, fully-vaccinated international visitors as soon as they can.”

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