The government giveth, by backing industry restructuring (or transformation) plans – and the government taketh away, by imposing (or reimposing) imposts on Covid-beleaguered businesses.
Another word for this is meddling.
In the case of the tourism industry, the government today announced that skills shortages and career progression in the tourism and hospitality sector are the first priorities of a restructuring plan (with a whiff of social engineering) being drawn up for tourism.
The plan involves the government in forging a “partnership” between the industry and Maoridom.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash revealed this when he outlined the next steps in the Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the sector, originally foreshadowed in May as part of the $200 million Tourism Communities Support, Recovery and Re-set package.
“The Tourism ITP will be ground-breaking because the industry’s recovery strategy will be based on a partnership between government, industry, workers and Māori interests,” Stuart Nash said.
ACT tourism spokesman James McDowall did not focus on this “partnership” aspect of the announcement.
Rather, he asked how Nash could transform the industry when he doesn’t know the size of the damage he is he’s trying to repair.
“This work should have begun in March 2020 when the border closed,” he said.
“Instead, it’s taken almost two years and the report won’t be delivered until mid-next year.”
The tourism sector had been one of the hardest-hit industries as a result of COVID-19, McDowall said. Jobs had been lost, businesses had folded, and entire communities had been impacted – but Nash (who also is the Minister for Economic Development)
“… can’t even be bothered counting the costs”.
McDowall based this charge on Nash’s reply to a written Parliamentary question.
Question: Has the Minister received any estimates on how much revenue has been lost in the tourism industry since March 2020, and if so, what were those estimates?
Reply: No, but the next Tourism Satellite Account for the year ended March 2021 will be released in December 2021 and will provide relevant data.
National’s Tourism Spokesperson, Todd McClay, said the Government’s focus should be on keeping tourism businesses open, not creating yet another working group.
Closing one working group just before it completes its work to merely create a new one at a cost of $10m would be disappointing to an industry that’s been left to fend for itself, he said.
“Tourism businesses are on their knees and need urgent support to survive, but the Minister is busy creating a working group to talk about tourism worker needs.”
Covid-19 has been the catalyst for the announcement from Nash that triggered Opposition criticisms. He said the disruption of the global pandemic
“… presents an opportunity to step back and work collaboratively on a vision for tourism of the future.”
The Tourism ITP will focus on actions that all partners can take to address skills and career questions in the industry, he said.
“The Tourism ITP will prioritise regenerative tourism, which means the industry seeks to build social licence by giving back more than it takes from people, places and the environment.
“The first stage of the ITP will focus on ‘better work’ and developing the tourism workforce. Like any industry, success depends on those working within it. This means investing more in people, deepening the talent pool, lifting skill levels and ultimately providing better work for those in the tourism and hospitality industries.
“There is a huge opportunity for all of us with a stake in tourism to support and develop different pathways for people keen on a career in the industry. This includes formal education and training, direct paths through paid work, experience in conservation or the primary sector, or cultural knowledge of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga.”
Nash also announced the co-chairs and wider leadership group who will develop the ITP.
He expects to receive a first draft of the Better Work Action Plan for tourism in the second quarter of 2022, after which the group will consult widely.
Further information about the ITP will be on the MBIE website: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/immigration-and-tourism/tourism/tourism-recovery/tourism-communities-support-recovery-and-re-set-plan/tourism-industry-transformation-plan
But while Nash presumably is working on the restructuring plan to help the industry, the Department of Conservation has decided to restart charging concession fees for tourism companies operating in national parks.
According to Stuff, the Government has waived the fees for nearly two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the department announced last week the fee waiver would end on December 31.
Conservation Minister Kiri Allan said the Government would work with struggling businesses to ease the financial strain, either through flexible payment options or deferred payments.
But Fiordland Business Association chairman Nathan Benfell said businesses in Fiordland had been struggling for nearly two years, and the Government’s decision to start charging fees again was ‘’a low blow”.
“Is it smart business? I don’t think it is. It just seems to be pain after pain, and this is just another thing that puts pressure on people’s mental health and wellbeing.’’
ACT’s McDowell issued no statement on this (at least, none that was sent to Point of Order).
But Southland MP Joseph Mooney, who is National’s associate tourism spokesperson, said the decision to start charging the fees again should be reversed.
“One thousand tourism operators around New Zealand will be charged these fees when they can least afford it,’’ Mooney said.
“It makes no sense to remove this lifeline, which has supported tourism livelihoods and jobs at a time when many businesses are struggling to survive. Tourism is on its knees. Charging businesses operating at a fraction of their normal income will push even more businesses towards closure.’’
But hey – the government has been splashing money around on an array of ventures.
Energy Minister Megan Woods today announced it is pouring $1.65 million into 15 community projects through the Support for Energy Education in Communities Programme
And Kiri Allen told Stuff concession fees were critical revenue for the department delivering on its key biodiversity, visitor and heritage programmes.
She also noted $1.219 billion had gone into the Jobs for Nature programme which creates jobs for tourism workers displaced by the downturn in the sector, and targeted support through the $400 million.
Beleaguered business owners should be more grateful, eh?
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Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. Thank you for inviting me to join you this morning.