By Tess Brunton of RNZ

The tourism industry is scrambling tourism-staffing-concerns-ahead-of-border-reopening”>to find enough staff before the expected influx of tourists this summer.

Tourism lost an estimated 90,000 jobs – roughly four out of every 10 tourism jobs – during the first 12 months of the pandemic.

While thousands of working holiday visa holders have been given a green light, most have yet to touch down in Aotearoa.

On Waiheke Island, EcoZip Adventures co-founder Gavin Oliver said it had been advertising for staff off-shore on internet forums, social media and attending recruitment fairs as well as using word-of-mouth.

“We haven’t been able to meet the demand that the business has had the opportunity… to have because we just simply don’t have enough staff and we’ve had roles open and advertised for months which have had either none or very few applicants.”

He was concerned about what would happen if they could not find enough staff.

“We won’t be able to run at full capacity so we will be constrained in the number of visitors that we can welcome, and after two years of essentially making significant losses, an opportunity to trade or to start to trade may be lost to us,” Oliver said.

The Government should be encouraging young people from around the world to spend a working holiday in New Zealand, he said.

Immigration New Zealand approved 16,904 Working Holiday Visas between March 14 and July 19 and, so far, just over 2000 of those people have arrived in the country.

Pounamu Tourism Group director Paul Jackson said he would not be relying on overseas workers this year.

“We’re looking within because I don’t think the borders opening just the other day or the current visa programme, we don’t think any of that’s going to happen quick enough, not for this summer.”

In Dunedin, Larnach Castle marketing and public relations manager Deborah Price was looking forward to the return of cruise ships and international visitors but said she was worried about hiring 25 more staff before business ramps up in November.

“If we have to manage it, we will have to manage it. I mean the worst-case scenario is we would have to turn down business if we didn’t have the tour guides or the cafe people to manage it.

“That’s [the] absolute worst-case scenario and we certainly would not be wanting to turn down business after the last two-and-a-half years we’ve faced.”

The Government-funded Go With Tourism initiative was initially launched to attract more New Zealanders into the industry.

Programme director Heidi Gillingham said it was now allowed to target overseas workers too and it already has about 85 working holiday visa holders signed up to its system for connecting workers with jobs.

“We’re expecting that number to increase as people obviously start arriving in New Zealand, hopefully in slightly higher numbers than they have.

“We just want to make sure that the job seekers that we do have on our platform are actively looking quite imminently so the employers are not seeing people who are planning on coming in six months, seven months, eight months’ time.”

Go With Tourism has a few marketing campaigns planned, including one to attract more students to summer jobs.

It was important the industry offered good working conditions, she said.

“If businesses start thinking smarter and thinking outside the box now and looking at job sharing and some creative ways to look after their staff and make sure that everyone’s getting the best, then I think we’ll be fine.”

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