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Monarch will cruise Otago Harbour again this weekend, as many Dunedin tour operators seek to restart domestic tourism after eight weeks of coronavirus restrictions.
Monarch owner Neil Harraway said staff were ‘‘itching’’ to be back cruising on the holiday weekend, and were offering half-price trips on Saturday and Sunday.
He was concerned about the short-term effects of the pandemic on the tourism industry but was optimistic things could bounce back.
‘‘Getting out on the water and getting out on the coast’’ was a great experience, and would be a positive way of ending weeks of stricter lockdown phases.
‘‘It’s very restorative, getting out into nature, the fresh air, the water,’’ he said.
The extended wage subsidy had been a help for Monarch Wildlife Tours, he said.
The business hoped to retain its six key full-time staff, but fewer part-time staff would be used because of reduced customer demand due to the loss of international travel.
Monarch usually carried up to 45 people, but with the required social distancing, only 17 passengers could be carried on each trip this weekend. Despite that, there was strong early booking demand, he said.
Enterprise Dunedin marketing manager Malcolm Anderson said many Dunedin tour operators were offering deals with an innovative twist over the long weekend.
Holiday weekends were of proven value in promoting increased domestic tourism activity, and there were ‘‘definitely some positive signs’’ both in Dunedin and elsewhere in the country of increased activity, and even some early bookings for later international inbound travel, Mr Anderson said.