‘Rationalisation’ needed as glacier towns especially hard hit

Franz Josef township is nestled beneath the Southern Alps on the West Coast and surrounded by...
Franz Josef township. Photo: ODT files.
The glacier towns are preparing for job losses and closures as major businesses, including Scenic Hotel Group, look at rationalisation.

One in five jobs on the West Coast relate to tourism: 3322 jobs. The sector contributes $198 million to the region’s GDP.

Tourism commentators expect one in four tourism jobs will be lost nationally, which equates to 830 on the Coast, and worse in regions that are more reliant on international tourism, such as Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier.

Scenic Hotel Group managing director Brendan Taylor said yesterday things were "not looking great at this stage".

It owns the Heartland Hotel Haast, Heartland Hotel Glacier Country (Fox), Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier, Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier and Te Waonui Forest Retreat at Franz.

When the border controls came in, days before lockdown, it closed the Glacier Country and Te Waonui. It expects they will remain closed for at least 18 months.

Scenic Circle has as many as 400 rooms on the West Coast to fill, and it would be very difficult to fill them with domestic tourists.

"There will have to be a rationalisation," Mr Taylor said.

A group of Samoan workers had been employed at the glaciers and had ended their season but were then unable to get home due to Samoa’s border restrictions. They were now in one of Scenic Circle’s Christchurch properties while the company talked to Immigration NZ officials to try to find them jobs elsewhere in the country.

Mr Taylor said it was too early to say how many staff would lose their jobs on the Coast.

"It’s a difficult time. Kiwis are back fruit-picking. We’ve not seen that for about 20-odd years."

Scenic Circle had local cafes and public bars at Fox Glacier and Haast, and once out of lockdown they would continue to service them to cater for locals.

Even with the wage subsidy from the Government, the company was "still burning cash".

Tourism West Coast regional manager Jim Little said he would not want to speculate on the scale of job losses.

"Many of the seasonal/migrant workers have either left or been redeployed ... I think the hospitality industry and some accommodation/activity operators will be the most affected."

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said tourism supported 393,000 jobs and a quarter of those could disappear in the coming months.

"Any international visitors in 2020 will be a bonus. We should be presuming that for the remainder of this year, we will only have domestic visitors," he said.


Only a quarter of jobs will go? Seems very optimistic.

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