Has the transtasman bubble boosted NZ’s struggling hospitality sector?

A week and a half into the transtasman travel bubble is said to have catapulted New Zealand hospitality sales to their biggest week of the year yet.

According to digital insights platform Trickle, which tracks sales data from over 300 hospitality venues across New Zealand – representing approximately 5 per cent of the industry, last week hospitality netted its biggest sales week of the year, with sales up 38 per cent following the travel corridor opening up on April 19.

The sales increase far exceeded gains from the America’s Cup and St Patrick’s Day boom – previously the biggest sales week of the year, with hospitality venues in Auckland and Otago regions reaping most of the gains.

Survey findings from the Restaurant Association shared exclusively with the Herald show almost 15 per cent of hospitality venues said they had experienced increased turnover in response to tourists arriving from Australia.

Businesses based in Queenstown had been particularly busy since the start of the transtasman bubble, Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said.

“The results from our survey show there is really good, strong economic activity happening as a result of the bubble.”

Auckland CBD businesses, many of which had been struggling for months following the shift in work from home culture among office workers and lack of international visitors and students, were also benefiting from the bubble, she said.

Sales would no doubt continue to tick upwards in the month ahead as more Australians visited New Zealand, Bidois said.

“There are certain regions that benefit from the Australian bubble over others. There are some regions that may not see such a big impact with the bubble being open, but there are certainly those regions that are [positively] impacted by it like Queenstown and some of our CBDs.”

Bidois was unsure of whether the transtasman bubble alone would be enough to see the industry recover after a disastrous 2020, but said it was certainly aiding a recovery.

“The bubble is helping the sector recover.

“Things are looking up for us now but we are still recovering from a lack of consistent trading over the last 12 months. Our businesses, many had no revenue for almost two to three months in some cases, or reduced revenue, and so they are still recovering from that.”

Even prior to the bubble opening up, trading in the hospitality sector was starting to look up,Bidois said.

“There has certainly been more positivity throughout the sector, particularly over the last few weeks. There are still businesses that are working through challenges, but there has [overall] been a shift in the mood for many.”

“We’ve had some really positive conversations and encouraging sighs of relief as that bubble opened up with Australia.”

Insights from Auckland-based Trickle estimate that New Zealand’s hospitality industry post-Covid is set to be worth between $8 billion and $12 billion.

Trickle founder Adrian Wills said like hospitality venues, the organisation had hoped that the transtasman bubble would result in a jump in sales across the country for operators.

“Any increase is good, but we wanted to see a real jump in sales linking the opening of the borders and the lifting of travel restrictions – and the numbers are astounding.

“The hospitality industry was bracing itself for a long and hard winter as this time of year sees a natural dip in sales as the weather gets cooler. We’re absolutely thrilled to see this unprecedented and huge increase for venues. Long may it continue.”

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