A Great Start, But More Needed – Bus and Coach Association

The Bus and Coach Association (BCA) and Rental Vehicle Association (RVA) were both pleased to hear of the recent relaxing of border restrictions for returning Kiwis and eligible travellers from Australia and the rest of the world on both March 2 and March 4, 2022, respectively. “The removal of the self-isolation requirement makes sense in the current environment”, says Ben McFadgen, Chief Executive Officer of the BCA and the RVA.

Over the last month the BCA and RVA have been working closely with the international aviation, tourism, hospitality and events sectors, to put pressure on the government to reconsider the health risk posed by visitors or returning Kiwis compared with the current risk posed to New Zealand communities in the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This is a great start,” says Mr McFadgen, “the government appears to be listening and has clearly indicated its intent to reconnect with the world. This decision is good news for airlines already flying to NZ via their global network and sends a clear signal to other airlines to put NZ back on their schedule for 2022.”

Operators are still nervous though. “The Intent is great,” says McFadgen, “but the tourism sector needs certainty. Timing is critical. New Zealand needs tourists. Our sector needs tourists. Without them we are done. We are looking at a 65% loss of all our tour bus and coach operators by May, and our rental vehicle operators’ revenues are down by, on average 70%. Basically, we are haemorrhaging.”

The sectors have been riding out the last two years on their own. “While the government provided support to many businesses, it was a broad-brush approach”, says Mr McFadgen, “our operators have specific needs peculiar to their businesses. They have high, ongoing, overheads and high capital costs. With the government’s support packages, they simply fell down a crack.”

The Bus and Coach and Rental Vehicle Associations have been regularly reaching out to Government Ministers to inform them of the plight of operators and ask for help but have either been ignored or shuttled from one Ministerial portfolio to another. “The most recent response was to push us to the Finance Minister,” says Mr McFadgen. “We have been through three different Ministers now and continue to be overlooked. What will it take for this government to understand that without help there will be little capacity for NZ to service inbound travellers and New Zealand travellers when restrictions ease? There will be nothing left to move them round New Zealand. Why hasn’t the government done anything about this? They’ve known about it for almost two years!

“At least give the operators some certainty. We understand the government’s caution on giving explicit dates for visitors to return without self-isolation. However, right now we have a net loss to New Zealand from the tourism sector. New Zealanders can travel overseas, but no one can come here to do the same. All our tourism dollars are now going offshore. We need money flowing back into New Zealand communities. We need a date we can work towards”

Both the bus and coach and rental vehicle sectors are looking forward to getting more positive news about the opening of NZ’s border to international tourism.

“Like the rest of the tourism sector we hope the government will base its future decisions on enabling NZ’s international tourism recovery, not constraining it. Demand is still high. People still want to come here. We need to make it work. We need to reconnect NZ to the world,” says Mr McFadgen.