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As of this morning, Australians are welcome back to our shores. The long-awaited welcome mat gets laid out as the border creaks open.
It’s going to be interesting over the next few weeks in terms of how many take up the opportunity – will they come now? Or wait for the ski season? Will our red light put them off? Can they get decent priced flights? Can they get good hotel rooms in parts of the city that might be bustling, as opposed to shut or low on staff?
And what about Kiwis? How many of us are heading away? And I don't mean the exodus for the brain drain.. which is estimated to be now around 50,000 Kiwis who are going to up sticks and bail.. could even go as high as 125,000 they say.
But I don't mean them, I mean the holidaymakers.
I know my sister snapped up seats to cross the Tasman for the school holidays. It cost her a pretty penny though. She spent about two thousand dollars per person return, for her family to go away for a week. I asked her if she thought it was worth it to spend that much money on flights to Australia, but she said they’re just so desperate to travel, she figures it’ll be worth it. I hope so.
But what we want to know here is how many Aussies will come in, how long will they stay, and crucially, how much will they spend while they’re here?
Most CBD’s in this country are desperate for the return of tourists. Christchurch’s Central City Business Association chair Annabel Turley said recently [in one report] that tourists will be crucial for central businesses. She was reported as saying that "three years ago Australian visitors spent more than a million dollars in the city over just four days of Easter," and they’d gladly welcome that sort of spending back.
Further south, ski field operators seem to think it won’t be until winter that we see more Aussies arrive. Skiing being the obvious drawcard. And if you go as far as the glaciers, they say they’re waiting for summer to get busy.
I think most of the arrivals over the next few weeks will be family and friends reconnecting. We’ve got a family member coming home to visit after a long time locked away, and that’s very exciting, but family visitors are not really tourists are they. I mean they may go out and spend a few bucks on dinners out or a few drinks, but they’re not dropping tourist size bundles of cash, and they’re not partaking in touristy activities.
But for those who do arrive to see the sights and frequent the tourist hotspots, are those hotspots ready for them? I know in Queenstown the struggle for staff is real. My brother was down there the other day and said sadly so many shops were either shut due to lack of staff, or open for reduced hours only. He was concerned tourists arriving would not get the usual good service and treatment they were used to.
And that the knock-on effect could be that it puts them off. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and the last thing you want is for visitors to be told that although we say we’re open for business, we’re not really.
So I have my fingers and toes crossed that it goes gangbusters.. that we really do look and feel open for business, and that we welcome the Australians in with open arms.