The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 and the resulting restrictions on people movement completely changed the landscape of tourism and the visitor economy. It is still uncertain when international travel will recover, or if in fact it will ever return to its pre-COVID-19 levels.
Against this backdrop, discussions with various industry stakeholders confirmed that the 2019 New Zealand Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy remains relevant, including the Strategy’s goals of:
- Targeting tourism sector productivity improvement.
- Aotearoa New Zealand needing to deliver exceptional visitor experiences.
- Tourism protecting, restoring and championing Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment, culture and historic heritage.
- New Zealanders’ lives improving through tourism.
- Tourism supporting thriving and sustainable districts – ensuring regional dispersal of visitors and enabling visitor flows.
The 2019 Strategy identified that tourism has costs and benefits across all 4 capitals and that it can enrich New Zealand. It envisaged this would be a tourism system that must deliver more than financial benefits and that it must deliver for all New Zealanders.
While these discussions reconfirmed the validity of the Strategy, many within the government, industry and the public sector voiced concerns that unless a deliberate approach were taken to implementing the changes needed to support the Strategy, the sector would revert to its pre-COVID-19 practices and models when international travel does reopen. This was considered a lost opportunity for using the pause to redesign the visitor economy in a way that would better serve Aotearoa New Zealand into the future.
In July 2020, the Government established a public-private Taskforce to identify the changes needed to create a more sustainable, productive and inclusive tourism sector.
The primary purpose of this Taskforce was to:
- Advise on the broad options that will enable the sector “to contribute more than it consumes” against the 4 capitals: society, culture, environment and economy.
- Make recommendations to address the long-standing productivity, inclusivity and sustainability (social, environmental and economic) issues present in some parts of the sector.
The Ministerially-appointed Taskforce was supplemented by a 38-member Advisory Group. Members of this Group were appointed by the Taskforce co-Chairs to represent a full cross-section of the tourism and visitor industry (see Appendix C for a list of the Advisory Group members).
The Taskforce agreed to provide an interim report to Ministers in December 2020. The report is not a strategic plan for the industry, but details the changes needed to support the existing New Zealand Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy and to deliver a different future for Aotearoa New Zealand’s visitor economy.
In the first half of 2021 the Taskforce is expecting to publish its final report which will provide more detail on the recommended implementation plan, including how to transition from the current arrangements to the desired Future State. The timing for the final report will depend on when the Taskforce receives feedback from Ministers, as well as others that it needs to engage with.