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'Workforce will come': Tourism Minister Stuart Nash

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash says up to 6000 working holiday visas to New Zealand have been signed off.

While Hospitality New Zealand CEO Julie White tells Mountain Scene just 142 of those visa holders have so far arrived in the country, Nash says the migrant workforce is coming.

Further, he says, Cabinet’s fast-tracked ‘‘a number’’ of visas sponsored by Tourism NZ — though those people are destined to work on the country’s skifields this winter.

Nash’s comments come in response to questions from Southland’s MP Joseph Mooney in the House on Tuesday, when he asked Nash what’s being done to ensure there’s a critical workforce for the hospitality and accommodation sectors, able to provide the high-quality experience so desperately desired by the government, by winter.

‘‘In the short- to medium-term I do acknowledge that there are worker shortages,” Nash says.

The Tourism Minister says Immigration’s now working with Tourism NZ to promote the working holiday scheme, and while workers won’t arrive overnight, ‘‘they will get here, hopefully, in time for the ski season’’.

While he acknowledges Queenstown’s been ‘‘incredibly hard-hit by the lack of international tourists’’, he was silent on the hospitality and accommodation sectors, instead saying he believes the perception of ‘‘what working in tourism is like … low wages, long hours and rather precarious employment conditions’’ needs to change.

‘‘I know that there are just so many opportunities for young people who’d like a career in tourism, who’d like to engage in tourism and be part of the tourism offering, both locally and globally.

‘‘But we need to change, first and foremost, the perception.

‘‘So we actually need to get people considering tourism as a career going forward.’’

Nash points to the tourism industry transformation plan — a partnership between the tourism sector, unions and iwi — which will focus on workforce development, and ensuring tourism’s a career that’s ‘‘aspirational’’, with a workforce able to deliver on the
‘‘brand expectations’’ international tourists expect.

‘‘Certainly, when you’re paying a lot of money to travel half-way around the world, you do have a very strong expectation of high service delivery.

‘‘The bottom line is the industry has to be able to deliver on good terms and conditions, and good money, and a great experience.

‘‘We need to be able to deliver on our brand promise — that means an engaged, well-paid, well-educated workforce, and the industry recognises this them selves, that’s the reason why we’re working hard to achieve that.’’

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz