In recent weeks we’ve been working on bringing together two taskforces aimed at assisting our recovery from Covid-19.
The first is a short-term taskforce comprised of industry representatives, primarily aimed at attracting Kiwi travellers to sustain tourism jobs.
The taskforce will also lobby for the reopening of the trans-Tasman border (with the proviso that there is a high degree of surety around Covid-19 control) and promote other mechanisms for economic recovery such as attracting events and the government’s ‘shovel-ready’ projects – I’ll come back to that a little later.
The second taskforce is aimed at a longer-term view of the district.
I personally hold the view that international tourism is likely to be constrained in the future for one very good reason – airlines will face a completely different cost structure going forward and I very much doubt that the very affordable airfares we had during the pre-Covid era will continue to be available.
How can they be when airlines will be forced to effectively junk large portions of their fleet?
The second taskforce, named the ‘regenerative recovery advisory group’, is tasked with shaping the path for gaining higher value from tourism and generating and creating other economic drivers through diversity (the film industry, education, tech and medical tourism, for example).
These activities will assist to bring higher-paying jobs and resilience and strength to our local economy.
Let’s try not to be in the same position of being so dependent on one industry in the future.
This taskforce will engage on its tasks while being very cognisant of the environmental and sustainability factors which we will need to build into any new offering.
I think I’ll be physically sick if I hear the term “reimagined” again.
Tourism is simply about folk visiting and appreciating a destination.
And if there is one thing that has become apparent to me in recent weeks, it’s how simply fantastic our little part of the world is.
Much of our infrastructure is based on tourism and we cannot waste that.
However, tourism needs to bring value to us.
Let’s also remember we are a long-haul destination for most of our markets.
We therefore need to ensure that travel here is offset by fulfilling our obligation to preserve and enhance the environment for our future generations.
Many have asked why we are focused on the government’s shovel-ready projects.
Quite simply, this is a rare opportunity for central government to contribute to the cost of some significant capital works in our district.
The projects we have identified have the potential to create 1600 jobs in the district and deliver long-overdue infrastructure upgrades required to support our current population growth position as the jewel in the crown of Aotearoa New Zealand tourism.
Government has, however, made it very plain to us that council must play its part in this process by co-investing in the projects.
And on that, am I the only one to have noticed that immediately after lockdown finished, before any tourism returned, we had traffic congestion?
At this time, I’m very conscious of the unemployed folk in our district and the need for stable jobs to enable families to have the surety of being able to put a meal on the table.
In the short term, this is where our emphasis must lie.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt thanks to those contributing so significantly to our taskforces as well as the many people working in and volunteering in the welfare space at this time.
Jim Boult is Queenstown’s mayor