Tourists are flocking back to the Mackenzie district this summer, but tour operators are struggling to keep up.
A lack of capacity to deal with the recovery in tourism due to staff shortages and insufficient long-term accommodation are proving to be major headaches for tour operators in the Mackenzie country.
“Despite global economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures, demand remains strong and industry confidence is positive,” Christchurch, New Zealand said in its quarterly destination marketing report at the Mackenzie District Council meeting on Tuesday.
“The main challenge is manpower, exacerbated by long-term housing in the district.”
ChristchurchNZ said many operators were unable to operate at full capacity due to strong demand from international markets, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, and better domestic visitor numbers compared to pre-Covid.
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Project Dark Sky business manager and chair of the Mackenzie Tourism Industry Association Jared Simcox said concerns about a shortage of skilled labor and a lack of housing for workers were widespread in the city.
“We’ve been very, very busy this summer. On the one hand, it’s exciting to have visitors come back here, but on the other hand, operators want to provide the experience that visitors expect.
“It was hard.”
He said owner-operators were required to multitask and “work themselves pretty hard.”
Mackenzie District has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
As of November 2022, there were 30 people receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance (Work Readiness) and 18 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (Health and Disability).
Visitor spending for the year ending November 2022 was 77% of that for the pre-Covid year ending November 2019, ChristchurchNZ said.
The domestic market accounted for 82% of total spending, while in the year to November 2019 it was 50%.
Bus tours with Chinese tourists were noticeably absent, but Simcox expected them to return in a few months and make a full return next summer.
Efforts were made to improve the worker accommodation problem with many stakeholders.
“Over the past few months, the relationship between the council and community stakeholders, including tourism business managers and owners, has become significantly closer, despite the council’s indication that they are very welcome to community-led initiatives that would address with the housing challenge,” Simcox said.
A placement survey was also conducted recently, with 100 people responding.
An announcement regarding the result will be published this week.
Simcox said homeowners have recently been turning to short-term bed and breakfasts, making it harder for workers to find a place to live.
Meanwhile, the council contractor who will be running pools at Tekapo and Twizel this summer, Belgravia Leisure, has reported to the council that due to the inability to find pool staff at Twizel, the company is having to bring in staff from various other sites around the country to fill the gap.
“The current need to bring in staff from other parts of the country is very expensive and Belgravia is likely to want to pass on these costs at some point,” a council report said.
In February last year, ChristchurchNZ terminated its contract with the Mackenzie District Council to market the area.
“The immediate priority was to transfer these activities and staff back to Mackenzie District Council to make the transition as seamless as possible to the market and operators,” council general manager of strategic financial management and commercial services Murray Dixon said in a report to the council.
“This work continues.
“Once this is successfully executed, we will develop a better understanding of the operations and consider options for their future implementation. It is hoped that these can be reported to the council by mid-2023.
ChristchurchNZ said in the quarterly report that road safety and camper freedom issues that existed just before the Covid-19 lockdown were starting to re-emerge.