31 August 2021

Money for Southland Tourism Businesses a ‘God-send’

Nathan Benfell sometimes wakes at 4am thinking of ideas for his struggling bed and breakfast business.

The Shakespeare House Bed & Breakfast in Te Anau was 98 per cent international visitors before the Covid-19 pandemic forced borders to shut.

Benfell said he was already thinking outside the square to find a way forward for the business, but needed specialised advice on how to market any changes.

Tourism minister Stuart Nash announced on Wednesday that applications for three business services funds had opened.

Fiordland will be prioritised for the Southland portion of the funding, which will put tourism businesses in touch with people like accountants, web designers and marketers to create a path forward from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Benfell will apply. He said the money would be a “God-send”.

If his application was successful, Benfell could use the funds to turn the dining room into a conference centre, and market it to domestic companies.

The funds could help him action the ideas that sometimes woke him up in the middle of the night, he said.

“It’s hope that we’ve got light at the end of tunnel.”

The three funds announced on Wednesday are; firstly, $10 million for business support, up to $5000 per business, for advice and support for things like changing target markets or scaling a business.

The second fund is $10m, up to $5000 per business, to implement the advice.

The third fund, a $49m Tourism Kick-start Fund, is $10,000 to $50,000 per business for existing tourism businesses, to scale back up for the return of international visitors, but will not be paid until internationals return.

Owner of The Fat Duck restaurant and bar in Te Anau, Cameron Davies, said his business was “in the high forties” as a percentage down on pre-covid trading, which made him ineligible.

The business was getting ready to do contactless takeaways in alert level 3 on Wednesday, but Davies said if the lockdowns went on longer, they may qualify for the funding.

On paper, the funds were a great idea and worth implementing, he said.

Five South Island regions hardest hit by international border closures were chosen for the funds, to come from the Government’s $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan. They are Queenstown Lakes, Southland, Kaikōura, Mackenzie and Westland.

Regional development agency Great South will deliver the services for Southland applicants.

Great South tourism and events general manger Bobbi Brown said 75 Southland businesses had already registered interest.

Great South would prioritise Fiordland tourism businesses, had been hit particularly hard by a lack of international visitors, before other businesses in the Southland District Council rating area, she said.

Some businesses would need website, accounting or marketing help, Brown said.

They would be put in contact with members of the existing Regional Business Partner Network.

“I think it’ll be good, it’s something. We can’t fix Covid, but we can support to them now,” Brown said.

The five South Island districts were chosen because more than 10 per cent of the region’s expenditure was on tourism in 2019, more than half of tourism spending in the district in 2019 was by international visitors, and consumer spending in the district, across all industries, had decreased by more than 10 per cent in the year to January 2021.

The funds will be delivered in the five respective districts by Christchurch NZ (for Kaikōura and Mackenzie), Great South, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Development West Coast.

Published by The Southland Times – 31 August 2021