When the skies over Bay of Plenty are blue and people are happy, the tourist industry is cock-a hoop.
All is well.
“But when the weather changes, when the skies darken like they have with COVVID-19 then we are the first ones to get slammed under a bus,” says Blair Anderson, owner of the Waimarino Adventure Park and Kayak Tours.
“And that’s pretty much happened to us this time round.” A nasty global bug has bitten his business.
“We’re just saying: ‘hey guys, life carries on,’ and now it’s time to say: ‘right, let’s look after one another’.”
But they’re also being careful, maintain happy smiley attitudes as well as an awareness and appreciation of the virus situation.
“Check out the WHO website and the Ministry of Health website, get the right information.”
Then, says Blair, get out in the fresh air in minimal numbers, which is something the park does well, have some fun, keep active and look after each other.
That why Blair and a bunch of other local tourism operations are dangling a 10 per cent discount carrot to Kiwis only.
“We’re counting on locals, on Kiwis, getting out, smiling and having some fun, to keep the tourism industry alive.”
Because it needs resuscitation to stay alive. About six weeks ago Blair’s office manager signalled things were slowing, there had been a couple of cancellations, although the park had a few encouraging reservations from the international market.
“But when we woke Monday morning to news that the borders had closed and the ships wouldn’t be arriving.” The ships are perhaps his biggest employer. “We had lost a lot of work. Number of visitors to the park are just disappearing by the day.”
He says there was a sudden realisation that when tourism doesn’t have money, then a lot of other people don’t have money.
“The whole country is slowing down and it’s a case of sitting down and working out how we can stimulate a positive attitude and at the same time being aware of the situation out there.”
The health of tourism is important to the Bay of Plenty. Latest Infometric statistics tell us tourism in the Tauranga and Western Bay sub region was worth $511 million to GDP last year. And 7123 people depended on it for a livelihood.
In the wider Bay of Plenty region tourism generated $1.096 billion and employed 16,465.
But while regional tourism is hurting, industry sources say the COVID-19 damage to Tauranga and the Western Bay “might not be so massive”.
That’s because the cruise ships were due to finish for the season and the sub-region doesn’t get the tour buses, it gets people visiting from within New Zealand.
And it’s that domestic travel and locals that the operators hope will lessen the impact of the virus.
“Feeling under the pump? Well, there’s local fun to be had and it’s cheaper. And you will be supporting local industries and people.”
Jay Thomas of 7 Deadly Sins, a company offering drives in ‘wicked’ exotic cars, reels off some of the other attractions in Tauanga. “You can start the day driving a Ferrari and Lamborghini, two hours later you can be flying in a helicopter, watching dolphins or riding waves.”
Companies offering the local kiwi incentive include 7 Deadly Sins, Skydive Tauranga, Bay Explorer, River Bug NZ, Adrenalin Forest Tauranga, Aerius Helicopters, Day Trippers and Waimarino Kayak Tours and Adventure Park.
“By getting to Tauranga and putting money into local tourism, you are savings jobs,” says Blair Anderson. “And you will also have a bloody good holiday.”