Backpackers Tokyo

Tourism has lost $26 billion in earnings since the pandemic began and $39 billion more could be lost before the industry recovers to a ''new normal'' here. 

An industry summit today was also told by Tourism Minister Stuart that the border settings announced by the Government last week would remain in place despite the emergence of the new Covid variant, Omicron, for now. 

However, it remained a ''moving feast'' and the strategy could change if the new variant proved more vaccine resistant. 

New industry group projections for the recovery of New Zealand tourism suggest that it could be 2024 before the industry gets close to its "new normal". 

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts told an industry summit $26 billion in earnings from international visitors has already been lost since border restrictions began in February 2020 and earnings ''fell of a cliff''. 

The analysis suggests a further $23b loss in the next three years, but this could balloon to $39b if the country's reconnection to the world is delayed. 

TIA has released a Tourism Industry road map to an online audience of more than 400 at the opening of today's summit. 

Quarantine-free travel is key to attracting international visitors back to New Zealand, he says. 

"We know it will be a step-by-step process but the best way to get moving on the road ahead is to complete the first few small steps safely and swiftly," Roberts said. 

He said the seven-day home isolation requirement for foreign visitors from April 30 announced by the Government last week was a big barrier to relaunching overseas tourism. 

Asked about the emergence of the Omicron variant, Roberts said it was part of the bumpy journey of the resumption of travel which meant there were backwards steps along the way. 

Drawing on the opinions and expertise of two dozen tourism leaders, the Road map aims to provide guidance by industry, for industry, so that tourism businesses can plan for a range of potential pathways. 

"Even if operators disagree or will make up their own minds, this road map work will form a basis for their own business planning. Not many government or private sector analysts are covering tourism so this information may also be used to ensure better consideration of tourism across a wide range of processes," he said. 

The Road map shows there is still strong demand for travel to New Zealand the country needed to be able to signal the way forward to international markets. Long lead times are needed to rebuild high quality air connectivity which could take years to rebuild. 

The ''new normal'' for travel is shaping up around the world but New Zealand is on the edge in terms of logistics, connections and potentially decision making, according to the road map expert group. 

Government policy settings will continue to be strongly influential over the next year but New Zealand is seen as a safe destination and there is pent-up demand. The impact of new virus variants on global travel is identified as creating additional uncertainty. 

By 2023, the main challenges are expected to be availability and cost of air travel, as well as international competition from other visitor destinations. But a partial recovery is expected, with a return to the new normal in 2024. 

"We are certainly not taking these projections as set in concrete. TIA will continue to advocate strongly to government to achieve the best possible outcomes for our industry, which was the first to be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to recover," Roberts said.