Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Hospitality NZ says prolonged reopening transition needs to end

Hospitality and accommodation businesses across the country are preparing to start a “We’re ready” campaign from next week, hoping to be able to reopen under a minimal set of Covid-19 health protocols.

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said its members have done everything asked of them over the past few months and are now ready to serve customers.

“Every venue in the country, particularly Auckland, is ready now to open at “Green” level and stay open. We’re ready to help the nation socialise.

She said the next few months were still filled with uncertainty and that was no reward for the effort New Zealanders have put in.

“We are calling for an end to this prolonged, tortuous, transition.

“We all acknowledge that transmission of Covid-19 will occur – but this is the point [Prime Minister] Jacinda Ardern talked about in January, when we’re ready to start living with the virus,” White said.

The sector is sufficiently prepared to keep Covid-19 transmission low, she said.

“Hospitality venues are arranged to maintain distance, staff are masked and vaccinated. We’ll soon be able to request vaccine certificates from customers.

“That is enough for us all to return to work, to live and to our family and friends.

Hospitality venues and accommodation providers will install “we’re ready” signs alongside the Covid-19 signage and hand out leaflets to customers detailing how hospitality is ready to host the nation safely.

“Whatever customers need to feel safe to socialise, they’ll find a hospitality venue or accommodation that caters for them,” White said.

Last month Ardern announced new traffic light system which was designed to end the nationwide lockdowns by replacing the existing Covid-19 alert levels.

This new system was met with heavy criticism from the hospitality, restaurant and retail sector who complained it was unclear and uncertain.

The traffic light system also makes use of vaccine certificates.

Auckland is currently in alert level 3 step 2, which means accommodations centres and overnight stays still cannot operate.

Restaurants are limited to online orders for takeaways only. Retail can open with the strict social distancing guidelines.

Robin King, owner of Admirals Motor Lodge in Blenheim, said he had lost thousands of dollars because of Covid restrictions and the lack of Auckland visitors.

“I don’t think the Government understands how badly we are [accommodation centres] hurting. We rely on guests coming in, we need heads on pillows,” he said.

“Just this month we have lost 150 bookings,” King said.

New Zealand Speedway motor racing was planned for January, and that had his 20-unit motel fully booked, with guests expected to stay for at least seven days.

“But now the event has been cancelled and I’ve lost thousands of dollars just because of that one cancellation.

“The Government can’t make up their mind with what they’re doing,” King said.

People don’t realise how much of an impact Auckland’s closure has had on our business, he said.

“The only thing that has kept us afloat is a few transitionary travellers and a few people who work in the wine industry [in Marlborough] stay in our motel,” he said.

“The Government needs to make up their mind and give us some clear directions on when we could open,” King said.

“We can’t ask people to get vaccinated before allowing entry to our motel but we need clear information from the Government, even if that means barring unvaccinated people from entering our premises,” he said.

White said the accommodation centres relied on forward booking of the customers to plan ahead to ensure they are fully staffed and stocked with supplies.

The October data is taken from STR which provides data, analytics and marketplace insights for the global hospitality industry showed the declining number of forward bookings for Auckland.

White said: “There is virtually no reservation [for Auckland], so how would these accommodation centres plan around supplies that they need to operate.”

“This shows we are well below last year … with only between five and 10 per cent of accommodations bookings.

“This is how dire the situation is. With so much uncertainty, we are experiencing more cancellations,” White said.

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