“After tourism brought in $40.9 billion p.a. to New Zealand’s GDP for the year ending March 2019, why is Government only willing to spend $400 million, merely 0.98 per cent of the total earned last year, on the survival of our country’s largest export sector that has been effectively turned on its head?” asks Bus and Coach Association chief executive Dr Pim Borren.
In 2019 passenger transport earned New Zealand more than $4 billion. The Passenger Transport Industry heavily relies on the 200-plus tour coach operators transporting tourists all around the country to and from New Zealand’s best sights.
“New Zealand has been transporting tourists around the country by bus for over 100 years, with the first tour coach operating in Nelson in 1918. But without a targeted share of the $400m from Government, we are witnessing the decimation of the Tour Coach Industry in New Zealand as we know it," says Pim.
The Tour Coach Industry has a number of unique characteristics which makes it an industry which is worth saving right now. It is highly capital intensive with a new tour coach costing in excess of $600k.
Pim says that when the tide turns it won’t be easy for tour coach companies to grow by resupplying their fleet with new vehicles at short notice. These vehicles are generally designed and constructed in New Zealand at local factories. Building a tour coach is not quick nor simple (ordering chassis and supply of internal fitouts can take at least 18 months and the cost is anywhere up to $700k). Tour coach operators need a fair share of the tourism fund.
“Without financial support to keep the stability of tour coach operators intact, when the tourists eventually come back there will be no Tour Coach Industry left for them.”
The Government have invested into tourism companies running ‘strategic enterprises’. Different forms of transport including tour coaches will be required to shift travellers to these venues around New Zealand. If an investment in tour coaches is not seen, the money that the Government has paid out to the strategic players will be in vain. These businesses often have a connection and complement each other.
“Tour coaches are the glue of the Tourism Industry. All major tourism companies rely on buses to bring in their business. Buses transport over a million tourists every year to the various sights and venues supported by the Government’s tourism fund.
“While we appreciate the Government’s investment in people through the extended wage subsidy, the fact is most tour coach operators have already had to let their staff go, so the wage subsidy is not helping them at all now. This is not a plea for help, but more a demand for appreciation.
"For all this industry has contributed to the economy, it’s heart breaking for these operators to be ‘left out to dry’. Financing for vehicle leasing and maintenance has now become critical for the future survival of this industry. A blanket approach to financial support is a quick way to allow the Tour Coach Industry to disappear. The Tour Coach Industry is different from most, yet more important than many.”
Pim says unless Government want to see the Tour Coach Industry fade away before tourism starts back up again, they need to acknowledge the operators’ many years of loyal and earnest contributions and reduce the ever-growing financial burden on an industry with no revenue.