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'Moral obligation' to help NZ tourism companies if borders remain shut through 2021, CEO says

A Fox Glacier tourism operator says the domestic market is not enough to keep the business afloat, with another brutal year ahead as borders look to remain shut off to overseas visitors.

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Chief executive of Fox Glacier Guiding Rob Jewell says the tourism industry is "taking one for the team of five million" as it's unlikely international visitors will be back until 2022. Source: Breakfast

Yesterday, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash laid out the cold hard reality that Aotearoa may not see any international tourists until next year.

Nash said it was time for those reliant on overseas visitors to prepare for some "very hard conversations" with creditors, partners and employees.

Chief executive of Fox Glacier Guiding Rob Jewell is one of those operators who relies heavily on the dollars that international visitors bring.

"The thing is, this isn't just about tourism, this is about survival of our communities," he told Breakfast this morning.

"With those borders closed until 2022 and businesses that can't attract domestic visitors, the minister said some of those are going to fail, and look, I agree of course the Government can't save every business, but probably the big thing is it does need to save communities and the people who live in them.

"That, to me, is very important."

Jewell said there was a "moral obligation" and "economic necessity" from the Government to help those who are sacrificing their livelihoods to keep Kiwis safe from the virus.

"At the moment it just seems tourism is taking one for the team of five million to keep New Zealand safe so we need some support."

Jewell said his staffing has already dropped dramatically from 65 to a team of 15, and they've reduced prices to appeal to New Zealanders.

But with 98 per cent of their pre-Covid-19 market coming from overseas, it's not been enough to pivot to bringing in domestic visitors.

Breakfast host Indira Stewart asked, "Will you survive?"

"No, the domestic market is just not large enough," Jewell responded.

He said those businesses doing well from local visitors were ones within two to three hours drive from main cities.

"We're outside that, unfortunately."

Fox Glacier is five hours drive from Christchurch and seven hours from Dunedin.