Those who live in Selwyn with its beautiful and rugged scenery know it is full of hidden gems that are well worth a visit. However many companies that have previously made a living from tourism, such as our ski-fields, accommodation providers and hospitality businesses, transport operators, and outdoor guides are currently struggling due to the impact of Covid-19. The NZTA’s planned snow closure policy for the alpine passes would have made it even more challenging for these important parts of our local economy to thrive, so it is a relief to learn that NZTA has reversed this decision after vocal opposition to this proposal.
Here in Selwyn 45% of tourism expenditure last year came from locals living in Canterbury. While this reinforces the message to support businesses in your backyard if you can, it also shows there may be opportunities for Selwyn to attract more visitors from other parts of New Zealand.
The Selwyn region is fortunate in being less reliant than other parts of New Zealand on international tourists. In 2019 domestic tourism accounted for 68.2% of tourism expenditure in our region, while the remaining 31.8% came from international tourism. Across New Zealand as a whole, less than 60% of total tourism spending originated from domestic customers, while over 40% came from international tourists.
Of course the actual percentage of income that normally comes from local clients versus overseas visitors will vary greatly from business to business. Our tourism businesses will need to be agile in order to survive in the current climate, given the present uncertainty around how long our borders are going to remain closed to international travellers. Some will need to change the services they are offering to attract different visitors and some will need to pivot their marketing to the domestic market.
In order to assist our tourism industry to get back on its feet, National has developed a $100 million grant programme called Tourism Accelerator. The Tourism Accelerator programme would provide direct cash support to businesses and tourist operators to help give them the confidence and ability to reposition their business and keep their doors open and their staff in jobs.
Under the programme, tourism businesses would be able to apply for 70 per cent of the funding for projects aimed at driving increased or new demand for tourism, such as developing new or revised tourism offerings or marketing to new demographics or geographical areas.
We also need to be thinking creatively about opening up our borders as soon and as safely as possible. In 2019, Australian visitors spent over $8 million in Selwyn so the re-opening of trans-Tasman travel would give local businesses a real boost.