Kaikōura businesses desperate for tourists as bookings dry up

Kaikōura had just rebounded to pre-earthquake trading levels when the pandemic arrived. Photo: File Image/Getty

Kaikōura business owners are desperate for the borders to be reopened to keep their businesses afloat.

The peak summer season was cut short by the switch to setting red lights as part of Covid-19 protections in late January, and the seaside town is eyeing a bleak winter ahead.

South Pacific Helicopters director of marketing and partnerships Krissy Griggs said international vacationers make up at least 90% of tourist activity in Kaikōura.

Without that customer base, she said businesses weren’t getting close to the normal number of customers for the summer season.

“Our future bookings have stopped, Kiwis tend to book daytime, and we’re not getting those daytime bookings. There’s no traffic going through Kaikōura, and if there is, it’s very limited.”

Lynette Buurman, business manager of Kaikōura, agreed.

“Our winter is shaping up to be terrible. It’s just one booking screen after one booking screen with no reservations, and that’s the reality of not having any international visitors in our picture yet.”

This was also echoed by Westpac’s economic outlook, released last week, which indicated that the tourism sector would not recover this year, with self-isolation requirements excluding most overseas visitors.

Border restrictions do not fall completely until October as part of the government’s five-stage reopening plan, although fully vaccinated New Zealanders returning from Australia can skip self-isolation from Wednesday and the date of The arrival of fully vaccinated New Zealanders traveling from other parts of the world has been brought forward to Friday.

Nor will they have to isolate themselves.

The pandemic is not the first blow for Kaikōura, which was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in late 2016, isolating residents and depriving their customers.

The city had just rebounded to pre-earthquake business levels when the pandemic arrived, sending them back once again.

Buurman said while residents and business owners may be coping well with the difficulties, they were dealing with fatigue from the continual challenges of the past four years.

“Our impoverished region has been under a lot of pressure, a lot of loss to deal with, and I think it’s really the layers of loss that present the ultimate challenge for people right now.”

Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle empathized with business owners, who supported each other to keep their heads above water.

“You couldn’t get worse timing for certain companies.”

But he said the silver lining of the 2016 earthquake was that they knew it would be possible to overcome this challenge.

“We know we’re going to get through this, we know there will be an end to this.”

Mackle also gave advice to residents: “If you’re feeling down, especially if you’re here today, just go stand outside for a bit and take a look at what you actually got for free, which is our domain. . “

– By Tessa Guest

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